Parents upset: The two aerial trapeze artists from Melbourne who performed above the crowd before taking their shirts off. Inset: The performers prepare for their show at Viva la Gong in MacCabe Park. Inset picture: ANDY ZAKELI
The director behind a Viva la Gong circus act in which trapeze performers went topless in front of scores of children, says she never wanted to offend anyone.Organisers of Wollongong's arts and culture festival issued an online apology for the Circus Monoxide performance after a parent used the festival's Facebook page to condemn the public exposure of bare breasts."It is criminal and wrong to expose children ... to nudity without a disclaimer or gaining consent from parents," the parent wrote."I hope you understand the gravity of this."The act was the finale in Circus Monoxide's 40-minute contribution to Saturday's festival. GALLERY: Viva La GongCircus Monoxide director Jane Davis told the Mercury the act was the work of two visiting aerialists from Melbourne, who had not worked with Fairy Meadow-based Monoxide before.She said a scripted warning about the show's "naughtier" content was drowned out by music and poor speaker placement.The circus expected to uphold its usual standard of performance at the 6pm timeslot but in hindsight it would have been better suited to a 9pm show, Ms Davis said."We didn't expect to have that much of a family audience, we expected it to be much more adult at that time of night," she said."If I've upset anybody I apologise, that was never the intention."Dressed in white singlets and blue workers' pants, the trapeze artists were depicting 1920s-era male labourers on the job when they ended the routine by taking their tops off, with one of the women facing the crowd upside-down.Because she didn't create the act she didn't know its intended message, but that it carried some comment on the strength of women.Ms Davis said the act had drawn compliments from the circus community, which was largely comfortable with the human body and appreciative of difference in a field that could get "repetitive".Other audience members had also been complimentary after the act, however the following day feedback became mixed."One mum ... said it was fantastic for her daughter to see women so strong, so amazing and so obviously proud of their bodies," Ms Davis said."I've had three calls from people upset, four emails saying they loved it and others saying they loved it but weren't sure about the nudity."The performance was a talking point at the best-attended Viva la Gong Festival in recent memory.The estimated 10,000-strong crowd dwarfed the audience of 4000 reported last year and has fuelled artistic director Frank Madrid's hopes of drawing significant numbers from Sydney and interstate to the 2011 festival, which he will also direct.Mr Madrid said he used "roughly" the same budget as last year - approximately $50,000 plus production costs. He said he was keen to partner with Tourism Wollongong and other businesses to build interstate media promotion, hotel packages and special offers with bus companies into next year's pre-show efforts.Mr Madrid, who was once the red-skivvied character in Latin-America's version of The Wiggles - said responses to the Circus Monoxide act were mixed but included "many expressions of support" from mums and dads."As a former children's entertainer I understand how difficult it could be for parents to be put in a position where they have to explain nudity to their children without having prior notice of it," he said."In Circus Monoxide's defence, it is only fair to say that I had asked them to provide a typical Circus Monoxide show and that is what they did."