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Pictures: Reporter clowns around with Santus Circus in Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 16:29 10 June 2015 | UPDATED: 09:16 11 June 2015

Sacha Santus, 33 and Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five days

Sacha Santus, 33 and Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five days

Archant

“The attraction of the virtuoso for the public is very like that of the circus for the crowd,” as French composer Claude Debussy once said. “There is always the hope that something dangerous will happen.”

With that thought in mind, I was literally putting my life into the hands of professionals yesterday, when I spent an afternoon with Santus Circus at their home-for-the-week in Dagenham’s Central Park.

A traditional family circus with a French flavour – ringmaster Ernest Santus hails from Bordeaux – the performance includes everything you’d expect with high-wire, juggling, trapeze acts, plate-spinning and tightrope-walking alongside gentle friendly clowning.

I had barely been in the big top five minutes though before I found myself stood against a wooden barrier facing a polished set of shiny yet deadly knives.

“Whatever you do, don’t flinch.”

Nicol Novotny and Tony Novotny perfoming their knife throwing act with Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five daysNicol Novotny and Tony Novotny perfoming their knife throwing act with Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five days

Easier said than done when razor-sharp blades are whooshing past your face, but 25-year-old Tony Novotny has been doing this since he was a child – or so he told me.

Legs still shaking, I was then bundled into a tiny steel sphere to experience the nerve-tingling thrills of the “Globe of Death” first-hand.

Standing in the unbelievably miniscule spherical enclosure, barely wider than my own armspan, a pair of motorcyclists looped-the-loop around and above me – so close we actually high-fived at one point.

Brazilian-born Ruby Santus – niece of Ernest – then took me through the basics of hula-hooping, something I never managed to master at infant school.

Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five daysJournalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five days

“Just think Shakira”, she advised, before I tried gyrating my body like the latin superstar herself, although the finished product was more He Slug than She Wolf.

After three embarrassing flops, I finally managed a few rotations on the fourth attempt before we decided to up the ante – 13 hoops. Not easy.

Eventually conceding defeat with the rings, I was given a quick lesson in “foot-juggling” or antipode as it’s called in the industry.

Bent over backwards on a specially-built “chair” with legs up in the air, I had to walk forward gently and roll a giant cylinder on the soles of my feet.

Lucas Soari, 21, and Paulo Leonardo, 20 performing their motorbike act with Ruby Santus and Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five daysLucas Soari, 21, and Paulo Leonardo, 20 performing their motorbike act with Ruby Santus and Journalist Mark Shales at Santus circus which is in Dagenham for five days

Despite my 23-and-a-half-years of walking experience, the process of doing it upside with a huge seemed a step too far so my future career as a performer will have to wait a little longer.

No trip to the circus would be complete without some face paints and a red nose, so Ernest’s son Sacha transformed me into a clown before I went on my way.

Titled “The Edge”, the Santus 2015 production includes top-quality international artistes from Brazil, Mongolia, Romania, Italy, the Czech Republic, and of course Britain and France.

The two-hour performances begin at 5pm and 7:30pm on Thursday and Friday, and 3pm and 6pm on Saturday, before a final 3pm-only showing on Sunday.

Ticket prices start from £9 with a family ticket for two adults and two children costing £40.

All seats at this evening’s performance, which begins at 7.30pm are priced just £7, and sold on a first-come-first-served basis.

To book call 07843 884787 or 07952 418487, or visit santuscircus.co.uk.


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