Beuel For 40 years, children and young people have been able to learn a wide variety of tricks at the Corelli Circus School in Bonn-Beuel. Hanspeter Kurzhals, circus director and managing board member of the circus school, looks back.
The Corelli Circus School at the Buschhof in Oberkassel can look back on its fortieth anniversary this year. However, celebrating will be difficult in 2020 because of the coronavirus epidemic. Forty years is a proud age for this special school – four decades in which much has happened. Rainer Schmidt talked to circus founder Hanspeter Kurzhals about what distinguishes the school, what has changed over the years, and how things will continue now.
Even at the risk of you having to tell this for the umpteenth time, how did the Circus come about?
Hanspeter Kurzhals: As a student, I discovered a small travelling circus in a meadow in Küdinghoven in the mid-70s and made friends with the circus family. At weekends, I followed the circus around for years and wrote 'circus school' on my small caravan, because I taught the children of the circus families to read and write and do arithmetic. In 1980, I founded the Corelli Circus School in Oberkassel together with some young people who were enthusiastic about the circus. Not to teach them to read, write or do arithmetic, which they learned in 'normal school', but to train and perform circus arts. Therefore, we are not a school that teaches circus children, as the School for Circus Children of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland does.
How is the circus school today?
Kurzhals: First of all I would like to say that we are not only a circus school, but also a circus with its own tent and its own performances. At the moment, the permanent ensemble within the Corelli Circus School consists of 26 children and young people and a number of adults who are helpful volunteers. Particularly due to the exclusively voluntary commitment and the manageable running fixed costs, the coronavirus-related ban on gatherings does not pose a threat to the existence of the association, thanks to parental donations and economical housekeeping.
Can you say how many children and young people you have taught over the years?
Kurzhals: Over the last 40 years, there have been many hundreds of children and young people. Some of them only for one workshop, others for many years in a permanent ensemble, many of whom still keep in touch with us even in adulthood and, whenever they can, also support the younger ones in their rehearsals whenever possible.
Have your students also become teachers?
Kurzhals: Yes, ideally everyone at Corelli becomes a teacher by passing on their skills to the younger ones after a few years of experience. Some have made even more out of it. After a university degree in education, they were able to incorporate their circus experience into their practical professional work.
Are the circus and the circus school different today from the one you founded?
Kurzhals: What has remained the same over the years is the basic idea, namely to carry out a circus programme in the community and thus to inspire an audience. In terms of content, there is one serious point that distinguishes our circus today from its beginnings: We don’t have animals anymore, neither at the school nor in the ring.
Where and when does your circus perform in coronavirus-free times?
Kurzhals: Usually, performances are once a month at the weekends, either in our own small circus tent, in halls or at open-air festivals. Thanks to the popularity of Corelli, the demand is very high, so we limit ourselves to the immediate vicinity to save ourselves time-consuming journeys. We used to travel as far as Dortmund or Limburg.
40 years and no celebration?
Kurzhals: Our big performances for the 40th anniversary in March were banned 48 hours before the date; all other dates in 2020 were cancelled by the organisers. Therefore, 2020 will remain a year without performances, something that has never happened before. In 2022 we will be a registered association for 40 years, and maybe there will be a celibration then.
Would you still found a circus school today?
Kurzhals: Definitely yes. Even after 40 years of experience in the game, I still see my personal challenge in the study of the traditional art of entertainment, the circus, and its adaptation to creative and experience-oriented leisure education for children and young people.
(Original text; Rainer Schmidt, translation John Chandler)