After months of practising aerial acrobatics suspended from the ceiling in her tiny apartment in Budapest with only her cats for an audience, Hungarian circus artist Eszter Kovacs is relishing the prospect of performing in front of people again.
With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to ease in Hungary, where 40% of the population are now vaccinated, outdoor shows in parks and at cafe terraces are now possible and hopes are rising for a vibrant summer of festivals and concerts.
Kovacs, whose skills also include fire-juggling, maintained her fitness during lockdown through a daily regime of yoga, long walks and acrobatic exercises using two flexible hoops hanging from the ceiling of her 24-square-metre living space.
For the fire-juggling, which would not have been safe to attempt in such a confined space, Kovacs made use of the narrow courtyard of her apartment block.
"We simply had no choice. For us this is not work, this is passion," she said.
Kovacs belongs to an innovative performing arts troupe called Taurin Circus. The group have their first performance of the season in front of paying spectators scheduled for June 13 at a festival. In the meantime, they have planned a series of informal outdoor performances where audiences can donate money if they wish.
The first show, a masked street theatre act performed on stilts with another arts group, took place over the weekend at Budapest's City Park. Despite the cold, windy conditions, a sizeable crowd gathered to watch, visibly enjoying live entertainment after a long hiatus.
This marked a welcome change after months during which interaction with audiences was online only. For Kovacs, that took the form of a regular fortune telling show on Facebook in which her black cat would pick tarot cards.
Fellow group member Kata Ott-Balogh, a pole acrobat, also had to adapt to the peculiar circumstances of lockdown. She installed two vertical poles in the middle of her living room, which also serves as an office.
Also in the troupe is Balazs Gyertyan, who gave up his job at a marketing agency in 2016 to become a professional magician, only for his new career to be brought to a forced halt by the pandemic.
He used lockdown time to work on new acts with his blue-eyed dog Lupin, who performs card tricks. He has also learned new skills in video and photography while running a popular online magic show that helped him get by financially.
"This past year was not about abundance ... but it was good to see that it is possible to live a lower-cost life ... and I don't need to fall into despair if there is a problem."
A sample of the group's work can be viewed at https://www.taurincirkusz.com/.
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