Young South Africans are making a name for themselves on international circus stages, thanks to the high standards set by Cape Town’s very own Zip Zap Circus School. The not for profit organisation focusses on training circus skills – at no cost  – to youngsters from all walks of life, some of whom are now ranked along with the best circus professionals in the world, performing on top stages to capacity crowds.

Jacobus Claassen, 23, was living at a youth shelter when he joined Zip Zap at age 17 through the “A Second Chance” programme in 2009. Having faced many challenges as a young boy, Jacobus, better known as Trompie, learnt to believe in himself again through Zip Zap social circus project. His passion for the new skills translated into much promise and he rose to local fame as an acrobat with his comedy act, the Baker Boys. In January 2012 Trompie was selected to perform the curtain-raiser act on a Cyr wheel at one of the most prestigious circus festivals in the world, the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in France. There Trompie performed for an audience of 14 000. His next international show will begin in November when he departs for France to perform at the Cirque Phénix in Cirkafrika2 – a comedy acrobatic duo act. When Trompie isn’t performing overseas, he is sharing his skills with the next generation of circus stars at Zip Zap who consider him more than just a trainer and look up to him as a role model.

Jose Batista Do Rego, 34, is another seasoned professional who learnt his trade when he started training at Zip Zap at the age of 11. He has performed a comedy table act and a comedy triple trapeze act at shows in Belgium, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. His career highlight has been performing at the internationally acclaimed Monte Carlo Circus Festival. Together with Kagisho Arnold Mutlane, Jose performed the Joka Boys act at the 2007 Cirque de Demain Festival in Paris, France where they won the award for best comedy act. He has also wowed crowds at Cirque Phénix in Paris and performed at one of the biggest TV cabaret shows in the world, Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde. In China the duo performed at the Wuqioa Circus School Festival and in Belgium they performed in a show directed by world renowned circus director Franco Dragone.

“We have always taught our performers to maintain the highest standards and their attention to detail and precision with their acts has paid off. It’s a very proud moment when we send our stars off to perform overseas,” says Brent van Rensburg, co-founder of Zip Zap. “Quite a few of our Zip Zap alumni have successfully turned their passion into a professional, international career and had the opportunity to travel the world too.”

Khayelitsha born Lizo James, 30, whose signature act is on the aerial straps has performed on stages in Denmark, France, Holland, Austria, England, Germany, Reunion and Russia. Like Jose, he joined Zip Zap at the age of 11 and has not looked back. “One of my biggest highlights was being able to perform in the show ‘Art of Rock’ which included Paul du Toit and The Parlotones,” says Lizo. He has taught his skills to youngsters at a Circus School in Australia and is currently teaching in Cape Town, part of Zip Zap’s outreach programmes.

Jamiee Allen, 23, began her professional career in 2011 performing her Cloud Swing act on a Cruise Liner. She is now studying at the Ecole Supérieure Des Arts du Cirque in Belgium. Yet another rising Zip Zap star is van Rensburg’s daughter Sabine, 19, who didn’t run away to join the circus, she was born at Zip Zap and has just secured a place at the ENC in Canada, considered the top circus school in the world specialising in aerial acrobatics.

“When we began Zip Zap we were focussed on the community work, bringing children from all backgrounds together to perform circus acts, teaching them skills and life lessons in hard work, physical health and commitment. Our slogan is, “Dare to Dream” and that is exactly what they did at Zip Zap, now their dreams have become a reality and are inspiring so many others behind them,” concludes van Rensburg.

For more information about Zip Zap or to find out how you can support them, visit Find them on