Jake West lives for the circus.
“I have to do it. It is in the very fiber of my being,” he says. “I tried to stop doing it once and my soul couldn’t take it.”
With more than 11 years of experience on diverse stages, West took his love for performance and created Island Circus Space, a circus company that’s mounting its first show in April.
“Currently, there is an undercurrent of contemporary circus that Victoria has not yet been exposed to. It is cutting edge performance art,” he says.
West is on the clown audition list for Cirque du Soleil and has worked with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, BMW, Pepsi, Vancouver Circus School, Children’s Cancer Foundation and done hundreds of street shows, festivals and special events.
“I discovered circus at 26 when visiting a childhood friend at Cirque du Soleil. I haven’t looked back since, I love it with all my heart,” the performer says.
The idea for forming the circus company, which also teaches budding performers, came from a workshop he attended with former Cirque du Soleil solo dancers in Victoria a few years ago.
“I learned so much from them,” he says. “One night, we went out on the town and met one of their friends, Lisa Eckert, who is from Victoria and professional circus artist.” Eckert spends months at a time on the road performing and can’t return often to Victoria due to a lack of work.
“I just had this idea to reach out to the professional circus artists who are currently traveling the world doing large shows and want to come home at some point. I can’t believe how easy it has been so far,” says West. “An amazing team has assembled. It is such a pleasure to work with a team of super talented and passionate people.”
West says even he is surprised by the response of the community to the circus school.
“There is huge demand for circus. Way bigger than I expected. People love it.
“With the success of Cirque du Soleil, people want it. The adult fitness market alone is gigantic and what is crazy is that the kid’s market is as equally as huge. Our bodies are more complex than just lifting weights at a gym and we are on the cutting edge of fitness. People want to do aerials.”
Island Circus Space’s first production is Catalyst, at the Metro Theatre, April 2 and 3.
“The first show is going to be incredible,” says West. “You can see many dance/music shows as well as plays, but there is nowhere else to see circus – nowhere – you are going to want to come see this show.”