Ex-student Emma Phillips

Emma has been in Wuqiao for three months now and prior to this she trained for six months at the Beijing International Arts School - home of the world renown 'China Acrobatic Troupe'. Emma’s choice to change school was to allow her to increase the level and intensity of training in her chosen field – a choice she describes as ‘very worthwhile’.

Training for 8 and 1/2 hours a day over a six day week, Emma is specialising in foot juggling chinese parasols, spinning carpets, and contortion combined with carpet spinning, aerial hoop, and she has recently started to learn foot juggling a solid wooden table.

Not only is she the only International student alongside 180 Chinese children, but she is also the only foreigner in the whole county which is over 280,000 people.

Daily Emma is completely absorbed in the culture and language surrounded by only Chinese speakers. Her limited opportunity to speak English comes when skyping friends and family at home.

Emma’s journey to the stage began back in 1993 in a small ballet studio in South Auckland dancing around in baggy tutu trying to act like a Prima Ballerina, but it was years later that she first fell in love with the world of circus when her father took her to Cirque Du Soleil at the age of 15. She was captivated - the skill, the artistry, the music the romance…it all captured her imagination.

Emma could have pursued so many other more traditional careers but instead had developed a passion for circus and performance. She enrolled to attend CPIT in Christchurch to attend their Circus School – and then convinced her parents that should was going to make a career from circus performing.

She graduated in 2009 with a Diploma in Circus Arts at the age of 19, and went on to work with numerous New Zealand performance companies before first going to Beijing Acrobatics School in China for six months in May 2010. Returning to New Zealand in December the same year with a contract with FUSE Circus Company with whom she worked throughout the performance seasons for the next 14 months. This included the World Buskers Festival in Christchurch and touring the North Island with the production “Camp Ground Chaos”.

Emma knew she wanted to return to China as the training for her disciplines of contortion, foot juggling and aerial hoop are not available at a professional level in New Zealand. Despite getting steady work in the Circus, performing, making costumes and teaching, she aspired for something greater and wanted to raise the bar in terms of professional circus performers emerging from New Zealand.

Emma says she considers herself lucky to be living in Wuqiao which is the birth place of Chinese Acrobatics over 2000 years ago. The town has a rich and fascinating history and a large proportion of the community have a connection to acrobatics. “When I explain to locals what I am doing here they don’t just politely nod when I tell them I’m training acrobatics, they ask what skill I’m majoring in, how long have I been training and then give me their opinion on the matter. Acrobatics as a profession here is as common as saying you are doing a building or electrical apprentice back in Northland,” says Emma.

Emma is self-sufficient financially, and has worked extremely hard to save enough money to train in China for one year. “My family have given me ongoing support in the form of parcels of much needed health supplements, personal items and New Zealand ‘goodies’, but I wish to achieve my dreams without adding further financial burden by relying on them further.”

The costs for Emma to attend the Acrobat School are high at NZD$1080 per month which includes all training, accommodation, meals, internet access and equipment for training. Time and visa restrictions don’t allow Emma to earn extra money. “Teaching English would be an option, but I just don’t have the time and I don’t want to compromise the purpose of being here.”

"I am very serious about my training and my goals and even though it is an

incredibly challenging and lonely road I am on at the moment I know that if I work hard and stay inspired I will be able to travel and create beautiful

performances and become an International Artist all New Zealanders would be proud of."