Relive Ethiopian Circus: Heart-stopping acrobatics, juggling, clowning, and contortion performed to live music.
Were you there? Revisit Ethiopian Dreams – Circus Abyssinia, a joy-filled family show brimming with astonishing stunts and enchanted adventure. Dive into the rhythms and roots of Ethiopia’s rich musical and artistic traditions. A tale of two brothers told through thrilling tricks and stunning ensemble feats of human juggling, hoop-diving, Chinese pole, and contortion, performed to the irresistible beats of live Ethiopian song.
For one time only, revisit this highlight from The Arts Center’s archives, filmed in The Red Theater on September 5, 2019. Bridge the distance, join the community online.
Circus Abyssinia is the first Ethiopian circus made by and for Ethiopian artists. Ethiopian Dreams thrills and inspires, celebrating the beauty and power of the imagination. It transcends our differences and reminds us that wherever we’re going and whatever our hopes are, we all dream under the same moon.
Inspired by the story of its creators, Ethiopian Dreams tells the story of two brothers, Little Bibi and Little Bichu, whose dream of joining the circus is made real by the Man in the Moon. The show is a surreal retelling of how in following their dreams, Bibi and Bichu find each other. In doing so, they find the means to make their dreams become reality. The story at the heart of the show is a mix of autobiography and dream, and tells of how Bibi and Bichu became jugglers not from their adult perspective, but from how they imagined it as children.
Throughout their journey, they are joined by a host of circus dreamers: some enchanting, others menacing, whose feats of acrobatic daring call up a world of rushing adventure that awakens the possibility of a bona fide Ethiopian circus.
Brothers Bibi and Bichu Tesfamariam are Ethiopian circus artists currently residing in the UK. Their story began some twenty years ago on the streets of Jimma, where as children they would spend every spare moment flipping and tumbling and wowing the crowds. The young brothers dreamed of joining the circus, but no circuses ever rolled into town, only rumours and televised glimpses from lands overseas.
Inspired by these glimpses, Bibi and Bichu grew up driven by a joint fascination with the feats of circus magic, acrobatic mastery and glamorous illusions achieved by the superhuman figures in the ring. However, living in Ethiopia, a country without a circus tradition, their dream remained out of reach.
At 10 years old, Bibi and Bichu discovered the art of juggling. They sowed seeds into their socks, carved their own juggling clubs from blocks of wood, and honed their skills on the city streets. Self-taught and determined, they moved to the UK in 1999 where they met their mentor, Sean Gandini, one of the foremost figures of experimental contemporary juggling, at London’s Circus Space. Under his tutelage they began to seriously explore the choreography of the art form as a duo.
Since making their home permanently in the UK, Bibi and Bichu have juggled in thousands of shows across dozens of countries and participated in some of the most vibrant and challenging tours and festivals in the world, including the Millennium Dome celebrations in London and the Fuji Rock festival in Japan. Their performance credits range from the avant-garde experiments of Gandini Juggling to the English National Opera’s Olivier-Award winning production of Akhnetan. Bibi and Bichu have also made numerous Television appearances across the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 on shows including CBeebies’ Justin’s House, The Paul O’Grady Show, and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, and were recently cast in Tim Burton’s Dumbo (2019), where they feature heavily in the circus scenes.
Bibi and Bichu also actively support the next generation of circus artists, regularly holding workshops and attending conventions. Since 2010 they have been sponsoring Circus Wingate, a circus school in Ethiopia. When they discovered Wingate, it was fighting a losing battle to stay open despite its burgeoning talent. Now Circus Wingate is flourishing, and it was there that they discovered the incredible artists who now tour with them in Circus Abyssinia – artists who started out like they did, learning their skills on city streets, with no expectation of pay. Together they perform a celebration of dreams, of the people who make them possible and the power in all of us to fight for them. They use the wonderful surreal language of circus to tell their stories – how they dreamed up the circus as children, and how they live out their dreams today.
This is a past event
- Bibi and Bichu
- The Abyssinia Troupe: Betelhem Dejene, Etsegenet Ashenafi, Helen Shimeles, Semeret Getachew, Hanna Tina, Alemayehu Mulugeta, Befekadu Esmael, Ezera Nigusse, Daniel Gezahegn, Abraham Lemma, Abraham Taga, Tarekegn Teshome, Tesfamichael Bilal.
- The Band: Nini Aseffa, Temesgen Zeleke, Fitsum Minwalkulet, Bereket Kassa, Sabastien Parfait.
The Creative Team
- Writer: Cal McCrystal
- Director: Bichu Tesfamariam
- Choreographer: Kate Smyth
- Lighting Designers: Mark Whatmough and Connor Lovejoy
- Producers: Bibi and Bichu Tesfamariam