Zip Zap USA is a replication project of the original Zip Zap Circus in South Africa, which was founded by international circus performers Brent van Rensburg and Laurence Estève.
In 1992, Brent returned to his native South Africa after years of exile. He found his homeland facing a critical moment. A divided country at risk of civil war, communities isolated from each other by history, race and culture, and millions of disenfranchised young people with no apparent future. He also saw the opportunity, as articulated by Nelson Mandela, for South Africa to forge itself into a true Rainbow Nation. He and his wife Laurence decided they would do what they could to help meet that opportunity.
They began in the crowded, violence-torn townships surrounding Cape Town, hanging a trapeze from a tree. The children gathered, and Zip Zap South Africa was born. The vision was simple: to give kids who are different from each other in many ways the chance to discover that they really are not that different at all, in the ways that count. To provide opportunities for kids to discover the possibility of doing something big – something beautiful. They saw that circus provided an ideal framework for that demonstration.
“In the circus, we do things that do not seem possible. We take risks to make something beautiful. And most of all, we do – in a very literal sense – depend on and support each other as partners.” (Brent)
Brent and Laurence began using circus to create a sense of family and community – bringing together young people from vastly different cultures and backgrounds to learn, work and play together as equals during their formative years. The school was free to all. Nobody who wanted to be a Zip Zap Kid was turned away.
Today, that family has grown and thrived. Zip Zap Circus schools exist in all over the world and are part of a growing international movement of “social circus” organizations traveling similar paths. Zip Zap USA continues the magic that began in Cape Town with programs that bring circus to at-risk kids here at home. In most cases, these programs are taught by experienced circus performers from the Cape Town school, whose amazing lives and stories serve as inspiring examples of how to make the impossible possible.