Dome's acrobats to found new circus

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A new contemporary circus company to rival Cirque du Soleil and other top international troupes is being planned for Britain.

A new contemporary circus company to rival Cirque du Soleil and other top international troupes is being planned for Britain.

The Circus Space training school has won European funding to assess the prospects for a full-time company working mainly in the UK to world-class standards. The plan will prove a lifeline for the high-flying acrobats and trapeze artists of the Millennium Dome - 90 of whom were trained by Circus Space - whose talents could otherwise go to waste at the end of the year.

The idea would capitalise on a surge of interest in circus and aerial arts in recent years in the wake of the anarchic French circus Archaos and shows such as the Canadian Cirque du Soleil and Argentinian De La Guarda. And it would be the achievement of a dream for Circus Space, which has become one of Europe's largest contemporary circus training centres since it was established in 1989 but has not had its own company until now.

Teo Greenstreet, chief executive of the school, said the idea was in its early stages, but had always been an aspiration. The aim would be to create medium to large-scale shows funded by ticket sales. "The good practice established by the Millennium Show will be built upon, and continuing investment made in training the performers, technicians and others involved," he said.

Members of the troupe would include many of the 160 performers in the aerial display team at the Dome whose contracts end on 31 December. Many were trained in circus skills from scratch.

However, a feasibility study into the plans for a permanent company is not expected to be completed until March. The proposal has received £54,000 from the European Regional Development Fund.

Dr Haze, the circus performer who runs the Circus of Horrors with the veteran Gerry Cottle, said he wished Circus Space luck. An aerial show high up in the Dome was very different from a typical circus on the road, but he said there was huge public demand for alternative circuses. His new show will tour regional venues this autumn, with funding from the Arts Council, and includes a week's booking at the 4,000-seat Aberdeen Exhibition Centre.

"Archaos was the first of the alternative circuses [in the 1980s]. They came and did something radically different with circus arts and now I think circuses are the new rock and roll," he said. "At Covent Garden now, you see people doing circus arts all the time - unicycling, juggling. It's still a very big art form. Circus Space do a lot of good work for the promotion of circuses and the training of circus arts. And it's good the Arts Council have recognised this."

A spokesman for the New Millennium Experience Company said the show had been consistently voted one of its most popular attractions.

"We'd be delighted if these talented performers were able to use the unique skills they have learned to continue entertaining audiences," he said.