The Zip Zap Circus in Cape Town featuring Shyleen Chavula

The Zip Zap Circus in Cape Town is one of this year’s beneficiaries of a MEETCHANGEMAKERS grant, bridging socio-economic gaps.

Meet Shyleen Chavula. In training and on stage, 11-year-old Shyleen Chavula is clearly having fun, with not a care in the world apart from not missing a step in her routine.

She says she loves learning “new tricks” as part of the Zappers programme. 

What she may not fully appreciate is the science behind the training that ensures she can continue performing the “tricks” and travel the world as an entertainer.

Physical Reinforcements

“The demands of physical training can be taxing on performers and all efforts must be made to ensure their health and fitness. Warm-up exercises are a crucial component of all training,” says Zip Zap Circus School Trust Programme Manager, Vanessa Curnow-Fortune. “While Shyleen is physically strong and healthy, due care must be taken to avoid unnecessary injuries that may plague her into the future and impact on her aspirations of pursuing a career in circus and performing arts. 

She uses strapping tape to secure and reinforce her wrists during training for handstands and adagio,” she says. 

Shyleen also uses resistance straps funded by MEETCHANGEMAKERS to improve core- and muscle strength and suppleness to ensure the best results while preparing contortion acts.

Resistance bands also allow her to achieve the desired results in stretching and activating the required muscles and muscle groups, in a controlled manner that does not put undue stress on her developing body, says Vanessa.

“Sometimes it may be stressful, but when you keep practising, you get better,” says Shyleen.

“She is naturally flexible and agile, but regular training and exercise are required to continually improve on her abilities. 

When You Practise You Get Better

Critical to her training is understanding and appreciating her physical limitations and working within these boundaries. Zip Zap instructors are on hand to offer assistance and support in safely testing her agility and prescribing exercises to consistently improve on this,” says Vanessa. 

Shyleen is a promising contortionist, and she aspires to one day travel the world as a performer. 

She has already appeared in at least two editions of the annual year-end Zip Zap Programmes Show & Tell performances, as well as holiday shows at the V&A Waterfront. 

In May 2022 she performed in four sold-out shows of Slapstick, which will have a second run in August 2022.

Thankful for Support

We remain thankful for the funding received from MEETCHANGEMAKERS in May 2022, to purchase much-needed equipment to sustain activities in our circus programmes,” says Vanessa.

Tel: +41 76 466 6140