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When we talk about the arts, we’re often bringing together a huge range of creative pursuits, from movies and TV to music, performing arts, fine art and design. Many people working in this sector have found a way to build their passion into a career — and there are more ways to do this than you might think. One example is Antonia Kuzmanić, who followed her love for movement and physical expression. She entered the topsy-turvy world of the circus, then put her own spin on it. Read Antonia’s story to find out if a creative career calls to you.

Thinking outside the box

Antonia Kuzmanić is not your average circus person. She has never understood the purpose of juggling or climbing on Chinese poles. Never one to simply ‘square the circle’, she instead studied at a mathematics school in Split, Croatia while also exploring her passion for movement.

Stepping into movement via artistic gymnastics, breakdance and yoga, she also began exploring a variety of more underground disciplines. Not a fan of narrowly defining her work, she is now an acclaimed performer in a variety of practices including contortion and handstand acrobatics. Also central to her work is butoh — a powerful form of Japanese dance. Butoh has been described as a way for a dancer to express an emotional place inside themselves, by creating an external form or movement.

A space for creative freedom

Along with fellow-performer Jakov Labrovic, Antonia founded the performing arts company Room 100. True to the spirit of butoh, each performance provides an immersive experience for the audience of true life, a memory that comes from the inside out… or even of mental illness.

“We wanted the audience to enter a universe and have that experience of how it is to be ill and how it is to be a person that has a family situation like that.”

Their early performances aimed to find a new way to explore and express mental illness. This was inspired by personal experience: several people close to the duo were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress affected many in a country that had experienced war in living memory. As artists, they examined how they could use their bodies to express and convey the experience of mental illness on stage, through acrobatics and contortion.

Room 100’s first performance, C8H11NO2, was named after the chemical code for dopamine. It stunned the jury of the “Jeunes Talents Cirque Europe 2009–2010” competition, earning the highest score in the event’s ten-year history.

Giving something back

After several years of performing with Room 100, Antonia wanted to do something to support new young performers. She co-founded HALA 100, a first of its kind residency venue for training, production and presentation of contemporary circus arts. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, so far, the venue has hosted 60 artists and more than 50 different programmes, including the Peculiar Families Festival.

Antonia is here to stay and determined to open doors for the next generation of performers. Follow her lead; you could be next.

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