Behind the scenes as 'world class' circus artistes unite with young gymnasts
- Credit: Mick Howes
They have left family and friends behind in war-torn Ukraine to entertain audiences across the country after being safely brought to the UK.
From a warzone to the circus big top, 16 Ukrainian performers feature in the brand new Circus Cortex show entitled 'Warriors' which has been touring the country and has now arrived in Lowestoft.
With the troupe of circus performers bringing smiles to locals, Circus Cortex has again collaborated with the Lowestoft-based Waveney Gymnastics Club to run a series of "very popular" circus skills masterclasses.
Two sessions, featuring 40 children, were held inside the circus ring on Royal Green in Lowestoft on Friday.
For Irina Archer, co-director and producer of Circus Cortex, it is a "great opportunity" for the children and parents to see the "major artistes" showcase their skills ahead of the performances.
With performances of the new Warriors show continuing on Royal Green, this modern "Cirque show" continues with two shows a day up to Tuesday, August 9.
Mrs Archer said: "It is nice to give back to the community.
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"It is really rewarding, and hopefully the kids and the parents will come and see the show now.
"Warriors is a brand new show - it is like a West End performance rather than a traditional circus performance.
"There are 24 of us in the crew, with 20 performers as the cast is made up of a large percentage of Ukrainians."
Consisting of individual artistes, married couples and families, the 16 Ukrainian performers are on tour until October - with further shows in Essex and Cambridgeshire.
Mrs Archer said: "Each and every one of them had spent the last few months hiding from Russian forces, seeking shelter from bombs going off, going days without proper food or sleep and walking through the night in the hope that they could reach safety."
Circus artiste Tetiana Lotiuk was in Kharkiv when the war broke out.
Separated from friends and family for nearly three months, she left the bombings and travelled for days going without sleep and food to reach the safety of Circus Cortex.
She said: "I decided that I could be killed on the first day of the war, I accepted it.
"It can happen I just accepted it, like I was living every day just hoping to wake up tomorrow."
Speaking of her home country, Tetiana said: "It's quite hard to go on stage and to have a big happy smile and entertain people because my mind is of those in Ukraine and so is my heart."
However, the troupe admitted that the responses received from the British public had heartened the performers.
From balancing and juggling, to wire walking, learning tricks or acrobatics on the crash mat and holding a pose on the aerial pole, youngsters from Lowestoft were given a real behind-the-scenes glimpse of circus life.
With "a bit of variety" on offer for the Waveney Gymnastics Club members, a spokesman for the club, based at Notley Road, Lowestoft, said: "Last year we had a waiting list of 100 members wanting to be involved, so more sessions are being run this time around.
"The gym club members are all aged from four up to 11, and they have all loved it.
"It is great for the club to have these links, and over the two days we will have had 80 children taking part in the workshops.
"The children have been on a circuit all trying the different disciplines - it has been great fun."
Mrs Archer added: "The Circus Cortex masterclass was introduced last year when we first visited Lowestoft.
"The class was so well received that a waiting list quickly became full, with very enthusiastic young gymnasts eager to come along and participate.
"Sadly, not everyone was able to take part, so this year we are back - and everyone that didn’t get the chance to participate last year has had the chance to feel first hand what it feels like to be a world class circus artiste."
Tickets for the Circus Cortex Warriors show on Royal Green, Lowestoft are available online.