Residents love being trapeze artists
The circus has come to town but it is not trapeze artists but ordinary Palmerston North folk who are contorting and tumbling at great heights.
A Massey University accounting student by day, Douglas Jarrett has brought an aerial arts scene to Palmerston North by night.
Jarrett debuted his Circo Acrofit classes at Zero Gravity Studios in June, taking advantage of their high-ceiling Taonui St warehouse to dangle clients from an array of aerial apparatus that would make most people weak at the knees.
"I found this place and it just exploded. It has been almost like a snowball. It has just picked up more and more interest and it just seems to keep expanding."
Next year Jarrett will offer courses in aerial performance, supplemented by contortion and "boot camps" using techniques designed to hone bodies fit for the circus.
Not one to take an interview lying down, he takes little prompting to demonstrate the gruelling daily stretches he calls "homework", required to take an aspiring performer from couch potato to the splits in just six weeks.
"It is just insane for losing weight - anyone can do it," he says, a little unconvincingly, as he effortlessly affixes his foot to his ear.
Jarrett's dream is to be an accountant for the world-famous professional circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.
In the meantime he is using his 12 years' experience performing worldwide to flex his networking muscle, calling upon some limber friends to bring their expertise to Palmerston North.
On Saturday, international aerial artist and founder of Pole RevolutioNZ Amy Richardson-Impey will be at Zero Gravity Studios to teach aerial tissu - a dance style in which the performer climbs and entwines themselves in a length of fabric suspended from the ceiling, and lyra - which comprises routines performed dangling from a hoop.
American Pole Dance 2011 champion Flying Laura, who has worked with past and present Cirque du Soleil performers, will take pole fitness classes.
Jarrett estimates about 35 people aged 14 to 65 currently take his Circo Acrofit classes.
While most are students, he has found a niche market in Manawatu's bodybuilding community, with some learning pole fitness to slim down quickly.
Jarrett has yet to unveil his pride and joy - a dangling aerial cube, thought to be the only one in the southern hemisphere.
But first, the Circo Acrofit crew will warm down from a weekend of master classes with a show and prohibition-era style party held at Zero Gravity Studios.