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Meet the Cast of Circus Abyssinia
Bibi Tesfamariam and Bichu Shimellis are brothers who moved to the UK at just 13 years old, and the pair have since juggled in thousands of shows all over the world. In 2017 they were cast in Tim Burton’s Dumbo and used their wages to fulfil a long-held dream: they created Circus Abyssinia, the world’s first bona fide Ethiopian circus. Bibi and Bichu perform daredevil feats of fire juggling in Tulu that celebrate the Olympic flame and sacred fire ceremonies of ancient tribes simultaneously.
Betelhem Dejene performs acts of speed and flight that capture the thrills of Derartu Tulu’s race to victory. Her participation in the show’s finale makes her the first Ethiopian woman to perform on the hair-raising ‘Russian Swing’.
Hanna Tina steps into the role of Derartu twice, with the daring poetry of the Cyr Wheel, then an aerial duet that articulates an athlete’s strength and grace.
Semeret Getachew performs acts of rollerblading and contortion in Tulu. With so few women on Ethiopia’s burgeoning circus scene, Semeret is proud to be blazing a path for young Ethiopian women.
Etsegenet Ashenafi is a four-time national gymnastics champion in Addis Ababa. In Tulu, she enlists these skills to perform extraordinary feats of contortion: most remarkably in a sinuous performance inspired by Derartu’s real-life encounter with the hyenas that roam Ethiopia’s highlands.
Bezawit Ashagre for years, like many Ethiopian artists, trained without opportunity to perform professionally. Now she’s touring the world, she performs stunning feats of aerial flight and solo contortion.
Alemayehu Mulugeta ‘Alemayehu’ means ‘to have seen the world’ and this young acrobat is living up to his name, performing high-flying stunts all over the world, from Australia to Japan, Abu Dhabi to New York.
Ezera Nigusse is the casts youngest member and has performed in Europe, America, Asia and Australia, even gaining a spot on the UK’s Royal Variety Performance in 2017, where he met Prince William and Kate.
Befekadu Esmael is the rock of the cast, with an eagle eye for the safety of his acrobatic brethren. Having started out as a street performer in Addis Ababa, he joined Circus Wingate when it opened and now trains the younger students when he is not touring with Circus Abyssinia.
Daniel Gezahegn was a street performer before being cast in Circus Abyssinia in 2017. He trained at Circus Wingate for nearly a decade and developed his stage charisma while working as a wayela (a taxi driver’s helper): in Ethiopia, winning over passengers from other wayela is very much a performance art.
Behaylu Tesfaye performs in the hoop-diving and Russian swing acts of the show. He often visits schools throughout Ethiopia’s capital city to hold workshops and entertain children with his circus skills.
Cherenet Dereje specialises in several disciplines, including hoop- diving and Russian Swing. He made his professional debut in Athens last August at the SNF Nostos Festival.
Zenebe Fantu specialises in hand-vaulting and Icarian Games, a stunning combination of acrobatics and human foot-juggling. Zenebe has performed throughout Ethiopia and when he is not touring, he also coaches aspiring acrobats at Circus Wingate.
Dagmawi Fekeru signature acts are Russian Swing and Icarian Games and for years he has performed at schools throughout Addis Ababa.