An emigrant from Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, Nathan Boyle’s move to Melbourne after being accepted into the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), leaves little room for anything but an introductory pun about running away to join the circus.

But Boyle inhabits the new look and style of circus arts in Australia, as its rise to prominence among its performative peers ensures a lot more mainstream recruits from a variety of backgrounds.

“I see myself as more of a contemporary new-age circus performer, than of that traditional brand,” Boyle told the Star Observer.

NICA’s sleek training facility off Chapel St in Prahran certainly suggests that much has changed since the tawdry carnival stereotypes ingrained themselves in public perception.

The newly evolved art form finally has a well-run Australian hub from which to produce this exciting new breed of versatile and theatrical star, moving them beyond the one-trick-pony mould of old.

Boyle’s three-year course at the institute has lead to stints at festivals in France, a gruelling schedule of weekly training — and a finely-tuned physique to accompany it.

An expert in cloudswing, Boyle will be showcasing his skills along with his 19 other graduating year classmates in the 2010 NICA Circus Showcase.

“Cloudswing is an aerial apparatus that’s about seven metres up in the air and is kind of like a giant swing made out of rope,” Boyle said. “It’s also very good at burning your skin.”

The St Kilda East-based performer competed in sports acrobatics for six years before finding out about NICA, and decided auditioning was the natural next step.

One of two openly gay students in the graduating class, the 21-year-old said he thought circus was slowly catching the gaze of the queer community, in line with their many other arts affinities.

“There are gay students in my year, and many in the years above that have gone through. In terms of audiences, I’m seeing a real interest from the community as well; I think it’s still quite a novelty for some people,” Boyle said.

The graduating performances are a chance to sneak a peak at this new generation of circus, on the cusp of their professional performance careers. Certainly, Boyle seems to have been snapped up fast, already securing a place with acclaimed Australian ensemble Circa, in Brisbane next year.

info: The 2010 NICA Circus Showcase runs from December 1-11 at NICA’s Prahran headquarters. Bookings at www.nica.com.au

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