Circolombia founder says the personal stories of the young cast are the heart of the show.

Those planning to go to Circolombia's performance shouldn't expect a circus show, but a circus concert, says its founder.

The troupe's 14 men and two women are all between 17 and 28 and grew up on the streets of Cali in western Colombia. They all attended the National School of Circo Para Todos (Circus For All), the world's first professional circus school for disadvantaged youth.

They were given their break by a British woman called Felicity Simpson, a former circus performer who set up the school with the help of a £250,000 ($455,000) grant from the National Lottery, in 1997.

"They're the kind of people who if you saw them on the other side of the street at 11pm, you'd run home," Ms Simpson said.


"But then, as you slowly discover through the show, those stereotypes are broken down as you get to know them as people through their personal stories."

The act has come for six performances at the Civic, starting tomorrow night, after a sell-out run in London and seasons in Paris and on Broadway.

The show includes jumps, somersaults, flying, tumbling and breakdancing as the performers tell stories of life on the streets of Cali, set to a soundtrack of Latin-American-inspired reggae and hip-hop.

Ms Simpson said the performance was all about who the cast are.

"They're using their skills as a tool for expression. They're not acting; they're just being themselves. It means no one can be easily replaced. It's all about their personal lives, so if one of them leaves, it completely changes how it all fits together.

"But what that brings to it is that it's extremely authentic. You know you're with somebody as you can see that person on stage and get a flick of their sweat."

Hot show
What: Urban by Circolombia
Where and when: The Civic, tomorrow through to Sunday Auckland Arts Festival