Tanya Lester's association with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus school, affectionately known as Fruities, goes right back to its humble origins in an old YMCA building.
How did you come to be an artist practicing in the Murray region?
The crazy notion of establishing a children's circus here on the Border was being entertained when Tanya Lester's family moved to the Murray region from Melbourne. "Just before the Flying Fruit Fly Circus was formed, talent spotting trainers were touring around the area visiting gymnastics clubs and hand-picking a group of kids to start circus training. My best friend was selected and when called upon to attend a training session, she innocently asked 'is it ok if my girlfriend comes too?' and that was the end of me! I've been hooked on circus ever since."
We used to train at the old YMCA building in Albury after school. Training went for a few hours with a couple of mats, one trapeze and a tight wire, that was about it. Training began under the expert eyes of Pixi and Jim Robertson. In its second year, Fruit Flies found this amazing man, Mickey Ashton – part of the famous Ashton Brothers Circus. Mickey Ashton had finished his performing career but found himself teaching us acrobatics and knock about slapstick. Mickey Ashton had toured all around the world entertaining audiences with the Reisley Act –a foot juggling act with people, where instead of kicking cylinders around its kicking around with humans!
Photo: Tanya Lester and Al Fowler on the cradle
After graduating from Fruities, I was lucky enough to work as a performer at World Expo in Brisbane, participate in the Russian training project, performed with 'Rock n' Roll' Circus and with Circus Oz in Australia and around the world.Under the watchful eye of Valodja Evdokimov, Master trainer from Russia and with my now husband, we learnt the 'Cradle Act' – an act performed with an aerial metal apparatus – where he hung upside down and I threw him my hands and feet – our form of domestic violence!
Life as a performer has taken me all around the world. My husband and I created our own performing company, 'CirFunKus' for 5 years we were very successful. A highlight was performing at the Sydney Olympics. Life has a funny way of turning full circle and I found myself back with the Fruities, and offered the position of Circus Director –the CirFunKus company became a casualty to giving my time, experience and expertise back to Fruit Flies. After a brief sojourn in the 'normal world' with a real job as a recreation officer for Towong Shire, I found myself back at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, working with Scott Grayland and slowly, building up my hours from part-time to full-time once again.
What are you working on at the moment?
With Borderville on the horizon, I've been focused on sharing the secrets of the 'cradle act' with two fabulous boys and working on a web act, which involves performing on a rope that hangs from the ceiling. My rich, varied and long association with Fruities has been incredible, with too many highlights to single out just one. I think being able to work with master trainers, both internationally recognised and from right across Australia is always exciting, but the joy of working with the kids and seeing them master a particular skill and perform in front of an audience, always makes me feel proud. I'm living the dream.
Main photo credit: Borderville, Alison Ryan