The haunting sound of the pūtātara echoed around the circus tent, carrying the high-pitched words of a karakia with it.

To some, it may have seemed like a strange way to open a circus. But in this case, in Flaxmere, it was just right.

The two vastly different cultures merged together almost seamlessly.

All were captivated by the traditional Māori performers, led by Thompson and Alayna Hokianga. So too were the young performers due to take to the stage next.


After a few words from Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and Hastings councillor for Flaxmere Jacoby Poulain, on behalf of herself and fellow Flaxmere councillor Henare O'Keefe who could not attend, the animated voice of the Circus director signalled the start of the performances.

The inaugural Flaxmere Extravaganza, hosted by Zirka Circus, brought 20 international performers to the suburb. Thursday night's opening performance was the first of seven shows.

For the next two hours, there were fits of laughter, shrieks of excitement and gasps.

Children looked up in awe at the acts with grins stretching across their face.

While all the acts were faultless, the show's special guests, the "amazing African acrobats" were a highlight. Their fearless and gravity-defying tricks dazzled the audience but their humour and occasional hip wiggle had the audience in fits of laughter, too.

At one point, one of them motioned for Poulain to come to the stage. Poulain, while hesitant, followed his direction and obliged his requests to follow his dance moves.

But when he asked her to hold a plate of what looked like burning cotton balls, she looked terrified. However, she continued, feeding him the burning cotton balls, which he lapped up.

In another act, the acrobats pulled children on to the stage, positioned them on the shoulders of the acrobats, precariously placed them on their hips, or told them to skip and perform cartwheels.

Each child enthusiastically took to their assignment. Some even wowed the performers themselves.


For the finale, five men on motorcycles performed death-defying tricks in the "globe of death".

Some of the other acts include hoop diving, human pyramids, and the teeterboard.

While the candy floss-induced sugar high wore off quickly enough, the magic of the circus hasn't.

Zirka Circus continues at the Flaxmere Village Green today and tomorrow. It will then be at Tamatea High School from Thursday, July 25 to Sunday, July 28.