To us vertebrate normals, the circus is this vast, surreal world of fantastical mystery that we’re briefly allowed into through the magic realism of Big Fish and American Horror Story: Freak Show, or at a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. It is a world we white-collar 9-5ers can’t grasp because if we had any measurable upper body strength and could bend our backs that far, we’d be trapezing our way from one office building to another, while ‘unknown arsonists’ set the whole block on fire.

Photo courtesy of the Dubai Circus School

In an effort to bring circus arts to the UAE’s huddled masses, Colombian aerial arts coach Javier Galeano and his wife Marcela Bello founded the Dubai Circus School. “[I] arrived in Dubai in 2004 with my wife, colleague, partner, and companion of dreams, with the idea of creating a space for creation and realization of dreams. Combining different physical - artistic disciplines, from scenic arts to circus arts, in order to put them on stage and share our dreams with women, men, and especially children who enjoy our shows,” Galenao recounts. “From that moment, our idea of sharing our artistic knowledge and having the first circus training space in Dubai was born.”

Javier Galeano (photo courtesy of the Dubai Circus School) 

Galeano’s first venture in Dubai’s art scene came in 2004, when he founded entertainment company Dream Masters with Bello. The idea to launch Dubai’s first circus arts school was born when the choreographer couple felt the need to source local talents as opposed to relying solely on foreign circus artists for the company’s stage productions, from musicals to circus performances.

The Dubai Circus School, founded in 2014, was built to foster a community of local and UAE-based circus artists, not only with the aim of developing the industry, but also to promote these various art forms for their recreational purposes. “[It] started as an idea to create an artistic place with different values, [such as] collaboration, improvisation, creativity, and community,” Galeano explains. “We opened with trampoline and vertical dance classes, but then the school branched out to incorporate more disciplines, like trapeze, ground acrobatics, hand balance, silk acrobatics, Chinese pole, juggling, and much more,” Galeano says. “We want the Dubai Circus School to become a place where artist of different levels and talents can mingle, and for the institution to be recognized as one of the best places to try circus and theatrical arts for kids, teenagers, and adults – from beginners and amateur, to professionals, with only one goal in mind and that is to be happy.”

Photo courtesy of the Dubai Circus School 

Their gamble paid off. Soon after its launch, the Dubai Circus School was in an Ivy League of its own, emerging as the go-to-institution for aspiring artists and recreational practitioners alike. The school boasts an impressive body of alumni, most notably UAE’s very own Yasmin Baker, Dubai’s first aerial silks instructor and newly minted Nike brand ambassador. “[The school] was successful from the beginning, when each child, teenager, or parent crossed the main gate to [find] an alternative way to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally,” Galeano says.

Today, Dubai is flourishing into one of the Arab Gulf’s pioneering cities in performance arts, thanks, in good part, to Marcello and Galeano – even if they won’t take credit for it. “Dubai's performance art scene transitioned from the traditional to the contemporary. The mix of cultures and ethnicities transformed Dubai into a place rich in culture and artistic performances. It is a fertile ground for this amazing diversity of performances,” he explains.

Marcela Bello (photo courtesy of the Dubai Circus School) 

The biggest part of the school’s mandate, and the dearest to the couple’s heart, however, is to forge an outlet for children and teenagers to express themselves artistically in a part of the world where this area of developmental education is often overlooked. Each year, on closing season, students get to showcase the fruit of their year-round labour in an annual show, combining theatrical and circus arts, with plans to hold the school’s 2018 winter show in a public theatre.

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Main image by @MO4Network.