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Friday, October 2, 1998 Published at 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK


Dome acrobats swing into action

Shows will run throughout the year 2000

Would-be aerial acrobats in the Millennium Dome are beginning their training in London.

The 43 trainees, whose ages range from 17 to 28, were selected at regional auditions in six locations and come from all over England, Scotland and Wales. There are also eight from overseas.

They have won places on a course run by The Circus Space, the UK's premier circus training school, for the Millennium show.

The year-long course leads to a Certificate of Higher Education, equivalent to the first year of a degree course.

A spokeswoman for the New Millennium Experience Company, Gabrielle Owtram, said the chosen few had backgrounds as gymnasts or dancers, or did martial arts.

"It's an odd combination of qualities they need: good upper body strength and sense of movement, the ability to work at high level - and a lot of commitment and dedication because it's very hard work."

Heads for heights

Training starts with intensive body conditioning to develop and build stamina and strength, supported by performance movement techniques and arts administration.

"They all need to be very fit and up to the challenge," she said.

The cast will be performing in an arena as big as Trafalgar Square at heights of 145ft - the height of Nelson's Column.

There will be between three and five performances a day at the Dome in Greenwich and more than 12,000 people are expected to be watching the show at any one time.

The search is now on for another 50 people to undergo less intensive training from next April. Auditions will start in the New Year.

On completion of the courses in September 1999, and subject to passing a final audition, students will become employees of the New Millennium Experience Company and undertake show specific training and rehearsal, before appearing in.

The training scheme is being validated and will be run by Circus Space with the Central School of Speech and Drama and is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council of England.

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