Whether by fate of serendipity, while walking along a dirt road in the middle of the Brazilian wilderness, I found a circus. I was in Capão, a small town 700 kilometers outside of Salvador, Brazil. Capão sits on the edge of Chapada Diamontina, a national park they say is the size of Holland. And while I had originally gone there to go trekking in the wilderness, I spent the next two days playing at the circus instead, turning down the opportunity to see one of the tallest waterfall in Brazil. But can you blame me? It was a circus in the middle of the rainforest! I was elated.
To set the scene, imagine a small, hippy town that thrives on the backpacking ecotourism industry. The town is surrounded by plateaus, rivers, and rainforest. Along the small dirt roads that connect the center to the homes along the edges of the town, there is a large red tent. This is Circo do Capão, the circus I happened upon in the middle of the rainforest. It’s a place that attracts circus enthusiasts from all over the world, a place for learning, teaching, and performing circus arts in a supporting and experimental environment. And sitting on the edge of one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, this is heaven for anyone who has a passion for nature and circus.
My instructor for the two days was Marcia, a fabulous aerialist from Argentina. We both started aerial with the same instructor in Buenos Aires! What a small aerial world. She was an amazing instructor and taught at lightning speed. I learned more tricks than I ever had in 4 hours. But first, we sat down to chat about the space and it’s philosophy.
Marcia explained, “The idea is for this to be a school; that people who come from all over the world can teach and can train. They can take classes, exchange information, methods, and disciplines. There are very good vibes here, its very familiar, a friendly space where we all are teaching and learning at the same time.” Some of the disciplines I saw in action were acrobatics, handstanding, aerial arts, cyr wheeling (see below), and clowning.
The artists had come to the circus from all over the world. Some of the countries represented were Israel, France, and Argentina to name a few. “There are local people that train and give classes, and there are also people that come to train from other places. I came here because I went to a convention in Sao Paulo and many many people talked to me about this place. So there are people that come because of this circus and there are people that just arrive and fall in love with it then decide to stay.” And stay close they do; artists who train there camp behind the circus, sleeping in one tent and training in another.
The space also has a strong social and environmental consciousness. It warmed my heart to see a class that the circus provides to handicapped youth, something I had never seen before. It was impressive to see the ways in which circus arts can be used to help create new movements for those who may otherwise be limited. The students were having a blast. While Marcia and I were talking, a boy who cannot walk was able to stand up, play, and swing with the support of the sling knot in the silk. Another student was balancing on a ball, and another was learning to juggle, each with personal instructors and huge smiles on their faces.
The caring and generous nature of the director and his wife was really the foundation of the circus in the first place. Paulo and Mary had a circus school in Salvador. Every summer and winter holiday, they would come to Capão and give free circus clinics to the children there, until one day 16 years ago they decided to make Capão their permanent home. As a result, they have made a home for traveling circus performers from anywhere.
For Marcia, “Circus provides creative freedom. If you want you can go for it. You can use this tool to express yourself. To grow spiritually on some level if you are interested in that process.” This circus in the jungle is the place to embark on that journey. I can imagine a day when I go back to stay. I will hike and take in the breathtaking nature, train in a community of likeminded artists, and perform for the locals and tourists alike. What a wonderful day that will be.