Trapeze artist Brent van Rensburg officially left the circus 16 years ago, but the circus certainly hasn't ever left him. When he and French born wife and fellow trapeze artist Laurence returned to South Africa in the early 1990's, they wanted to give back to South Africa and the rainbow nation. And what better way to give back than to bring fun and joy to the lives of disadvantaged and HIV positive children through sharing their passion for the circus?
Brent, who grew up in Observatory in Cape Town, remembers having to sneak into the YMCA grounds to swing on the trapeze. Most of all, he remembers the joy this brought the little boy from the somewhat dysfunctional background.
His professional circus career lasted 20 years and took him and Laurence all over the globe.
Brent and Laurence aim to teach children life skills by teaching them circus skills, something that they have accomplished in many young lives. Zip Zap has seen many young children pass through - a large percentage of them from previously disadvantaged groups, and some even street children.
Some of ''their kids'', as he fondly refers to their students, have been with Zip Zap since the beginning. Like Jose Do Rego, who partnered with Kagisho Mutlane last year in an international circus act competition. ''They took part in the comedy division, and competed against Canadians, Italians and Russians. They won a Gold Clown award and a contract for work in Paris,'' he enthuses.
On Fridays, after school, and on Saturdays and Sundays the kids come from all over the Cape to be trained. There are between 50 and 60 kids at any given time - literally doing their tricks. New intakes must be between 8 and 12 years old to qualify.
And it doesn't stop there. Zip Zap also runs a training programme for young adults, teaching them the practical and technical skills necessary to maintain and run the school, and you have, well... a circus.
But don't think that all these excited youngsters and their mentors aren't serious about their circus. Some of the children trained by Zip Zap have made professional careers in the circus. Zip Zap also has links with the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, a Canadian-based circus, which sends their interns to Zip Zap and also provide some funding. The balance of the money needed for operating costs is raised by performances and donations.
Zip Zap's new home, the FT (flat trussed) Dome provided by Gearhouse In2Structures has added even more substance to Brent and Laurence's dream of using circus as a medium to make a difference in children's lives. Now they have this fantastic venue to help make even a bigger difference.
According to Robyn D'Alessandro, Marketing Manager for the Gearhouse Group, Zip Zap's brand new venue is the first FT Dome in operation in SA. ''The FT Dome and Maxi Dome were developed here in South Africa by In2Structures and are now being utilised for the international market. There is currently a lot of interest from countries like Dubai and Israel, but we are also targeting our sales at places like Europe and the UK. Of course there is also big interest locally in both government and private sector.''
Both the FT-Dome and the Maxi Dome are highly versatile semi-permanent venues that can be transformed and configured according to the event and the client's requirements - even, as in this case, when the client is a circus, with very specific technical and safety needs.
Brent is very happy with the safety aspect of the Dome. ''The very latest in technology makes it possible for gear to hang anywhere from the structure, and engineering reports show that the igloo-shape makes it possible to withstand winds of up to 130 km/h.''
The versatility of In2Structures Venues lies in the fact that they are fully portable and can be erected where required and also include the options of attachable mini domes as foyers, dressing rooms and kitchens. Each installation is supported by means of trusses anchored directly into the ground and comes with structural certification in any configuration. In smaller configurations they are particularly well suited for use as roof-top structures.
Several of these structures are currently in operation around South Africa and the demand continues to grow, particularly as the country gears up for events around, and leading up to, the 2010 World Cup.
Kathy English Brower, Business Development Manager for Gearhouse, is very enthusiastic about the fact that this type of venue opens up a whole new range of possibilities for corporate functions and conferencing countrywide as there are not that many venues able to accommodate hundreds of people simultaneously.
Gearhouse SA's association with Zip Zap goes back a very long way, fed by a mutual belief in South Africa's potential, and the need for upliftment at grass roots level. Gearhouse is extremely supportive of Zip Zap's life-changing contribution to disadvantaged children's lives. Says Ofer Lapid, MD of Gearhouse, ''We always gladly assist where we can; not only because we believe in Zip Zap's unique project, but also because, as a market leader in the Live Event industry we take our social responsibility very seriously.'' The Gearhouse group also sponsored the equipment for the extremely successful launch of the venue on 7th and 8th August.
And now, ladies and gentleman, sit back, relax and enjoy the show!Read more about Zip Zap at www.zip-zap.co.za.