Arnhem Land 1988
Nanjing ProjectsJuggling the Data

Nanjing Projects

The two training programmes run in Albury-Wodonga with members of the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe in the mid-1980s were signal events in the history of Australian circus. Their influence on Circus Oz was profound.

Through this cross-cultural exchange, the company gained a new level of technical proficiency and an expanded trick repertoire, as well as access to a new generation of highly skilled performers.

The unprecedented exchange can also be seen as part of a broader geopolitical trend, as China – recovering from the domestic turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s – ramped up its cultural engagement with the world.

Poster advertising the Nanjing Project. Theatre and Dance Platform.


Circus Oz tours China

Circus Oz tours China for the first time. Completing the circle, the company heads to the Xuzhou Olympic Sports Stadium in Jiangsu province for a large-scale concert performance.

Lu Guangrong joins Circus Oz

Lu Guang Rong, one of the instructors who participated in both Nanjing Project I and II stayed on to take up a role as instructor at FFFC. In 1993 he toured with Circus Oz, before returning to FFFC as head trainer. He later joined the National Institute of Circus Arts.


Show: Madam Mao

The Playbox Theatre creates a new hybrid theatre work called Madame Mao, a show about Jiang Qing, widow of Mao Zedong and active figure in the Cultural Revolution. The show features members of the Circus Oz ensemble performing tricks influenced by Chinese acrobatics.


Show: Circus of Tomorrow

Nanjing II finishes with another group presentation, this time called the Circus of Tomorrow. Rosemary Farrell notes that the acts in this show are more blended than Great Leap Forward, featuring a hybrid of local and Chinese circus styles.


Nanjing II: Training methods

Whereas the emphasis in Nanjing I was the acquisition of new tricks – and a more rigorous commitment to the basics of acrobatics – Nanjing II also focuses on training methods and how circus is taught. There are also languages classes.


Nanjing II: The trainers return

Following the success of the Nanjing I, a second team of Chinese instructors from the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe is invited to Albury-Wodonga. There are six trainers, four of whom were involved in Nanjing I. This time the training lasts eight months.


Leapers Join Circus Oz

The Leapers – Gael Coulton, Scott Grayland, Matthew Hughes, Therese Cashew and Teresa Blake – are invited to join Cirucs Oz. This shifts the demographic profile of the company. They immediately head off with the company for the Los Angeles Olympics Arts Festival.


Show: Great Leap Forward

Nanjing I finishes with a public concert, The Great Leap Forward, where project participants show off their new skills. The Chinese trainers also perform in the show, with Chinese and Australian acts performed side-by-side.


Nanjing I: Acrobats flock to Albury

Nearly 100 participants registered for the programme. Participants included the young students of the FFFC, a group of young-adult FFFC graduates known as the Leapers, adult performers from Circus Oz and a small group of adult participants with other affiliations.


Nanjing I: Trainers arrive

Seven members of the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe arrive in Australia in November to train performers in Chinese acrobatics at the FFFC in Albury-Wodonga. The programme, initiated by Robert Perrier, runs for three months over the summer, finishing in early 1984.