Justin Durham started his journey to the circus at the ripe old age of 3. His mother, an administrator at Evanston hospital simply couldn’t get Justin to stop climbing, well…EVERYTHING! So she did the next best thing and channeled all that energy and talent into classes and camps at the Actor’s Gymnasium.
It was at the Actor's Gym he trained under a true pioneer in the Chicago Circus Community, award-winning choreographer, acrobat, director and longtime Midnight Circus friend Sylvia Hernandez.
Justin loved the classes and summer camps. The combination of dance and theater required for circus was exactly what he was looking for.
It was here that Justin met Midnight Circus alum Kevin Beverly and later had the opportunity to study under him. Kevin had just graduated from École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal and returned to his old stomping ground to share what he had learned.
Watching Kevin’s career path, as well as taking an intensive two-week course at the École Nationale de Cirque when he was 16 made Justin think about the possibility of a future in the circus.
Seeing ‘Traces’ from 7 fingers really opened Justin's eyes to what contemporary circus could be. He decided then that circus would be the next chapter in his young life.
During his senior year of high school, Justin told his parents that he didn’t want to go to a traditional college. He identified the National Centre for Circus Arts in London as his next step. It took some convincing, but in the end, Durham shipped off to London.
Durham entered school intending to study Aerial Straps – which had been his focus towards the end of high school. The brother of the Strap's coach, Sainna, also a world-renowned circus artist from Mongolia, taught Handbalancing. The brothers developed a healthy rivalry over Justin. In the end, Justin decided to focus on Handbalancing. It gave him more of a chance to be a generalist -- studying acrobatics, flying, basing (basically the human equipment providing support, lifting or throwing) as well as continuing to study Aerial Straps.
Justin’s skills progressed tremendously under Sainna’s tutelage. He was one of a few selected to complete the third 'BA' year with the school. His 'devised piece' from the BA year show demonstrates his skill and artistry and makes Midnight Circus so excited to have him join the cast.
This piece of work was from my third year (BA year) of the course called the ‘devised piece.’
Also as a part of the third year 'devised piece', Justin got to show his acrobatics, flying and hand to hand skills in his classmate, Liam Croucher’s, piece.
When Midnight Circus caught up with Justin, he just finished a tour with fellow third-year students as a part of Hull UK City of Culture Lift Festival. Here he had the opportunity to collaborate with Circa, a world-leading contemporary circus company from Australia on a spellbinding new show titled Depart.
On July 21, 2017, Durham will graduate with a BA from the National Centre for Circus Arts and head back to Chicago to begin his professional career as part of the cast of Midnight Circus in the Parks (MCITP).
Justin has been a fan of MCITP since he first saw the company in 2014 performing at Ogden Park in Englewood. He thought it was incredible to see such high-level circus in that intimate setting in a neighborhood park.
To him Midnight Circus in the Parks is ‘truly one of kind’ and he can’t wait until the tour kicks off at Gately Park in the Roseland/Pullman neighborhood August 26.