Waldshut-Tiengen: Mr. König, do you need prior knowledge of the zebrasco circus, can anyone learn it?

Mr. König, starting a circus club is not common – how did it happen?

During my internship at the school on Lake Constance, we bought unicycles for children to take during breaks. This was well received and then gradually expanded to include materials such as juggling or diabolo balls and clubs. At one point it became a circus workgroup. And when I came to the Klettgau-Gymnasium in Tiengen at the end of 2008, I wanted to do something about it here as well. In response to the call, enough students registered to set up a study group. The then managing director Bernd Crößmann granted us a start-up capital of EUR 600 for the purchase of materials. It all started with the purchase of juggling supplies such as diabolos, clubs and unicycles. Our first official performance was at Schwyzertag 2009. Then we received inquiries about our performances elsewhere. So it grows more and more. Today we have 15 to 20 concerts a year.

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Why didn’t he stay in the working group, why did you found an association?

The degree of difficulty, training effort and material expenditure are increasingly beyond the remit of the working group. Therefore, together with Manfred Römersperger, we decided to become an association in 2018. We are responsible for ourselves now, but we also have many advantages. For example, we can now take boys and girls from other schools and they can stay after school. We have those who stayed with us, although they are now studying or practicing.

The “circus director” Ruben König talks to our friend Ursula Freudig about the circus Zebrasco, which he founded about twelve years ago. Photo: Michael Ebner | Photo: Michael Ebner

How big is the circus group right now?

The association has approximately 30 members, including the management board. We are active from 15 to 20 years, the vast majority are girls. Anyone can join us at the age of ten or eleven, that is, from fifth grade to adolescence. We are always open to new members, especially we would be happy to have a few more boys. The membership fee is only symbolic and amounts to one euro per year.

Do you need prior knowledge?

No, you just have to have a passion for the circus and the things you do in the circus. Anyone can learn and train whatever they want to do. For example, a girl wanted to do magic, and we included it in one of our programs. But it is true that everyone has certain talents and learns at a different pace. For example, some people work better with their hands, others work better with their feet. In addition to enthusiasm for the circus, good social behavior is important. You have to integrate with the group, work together and be able to rely on yourself. FPS shooters will not be satisfied with us.

Recently, on Children’s Day in Tiengen, I saw a girl hanging upside down in the silk air. It’s not completely safe, is it?

What we do is a sport like any other, so here, too, there are always minor injuries. Over the years, there have been very few injuries so far. Certain tricks, such as silk in the air or with fire, are not safe, but someone does dangerous things only when they feel completely safe and have mastered all movements.

The Zebrasco Circus achieves great results with light shows using LED juggling equipment - here in October 2021 at ...

The Zebrasco Circus achieves great results with light shows using LED juggling equipment – here in October 2021 at “Tiengen Lights”. (archival image) | Photo: Ursula Freudig

For example, in the case of aviation silk, it should be properly wrapped. It matters whether the fabric is wrapped around the leg on the left or right side. But our girls are so experts now that they can see for themselves when something is wrong. Most people are always looking to do new, more difficult things, and when there is some degree of danger involved, it increases the attraction.

How many training courses are behind the demonstrations?

We train once a week on Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00 at the Klettgau-Gymnasium. Individual members also take part in professional workshops from time to time, for example in Stuttgart, where the trainers teach specific disciplines. In addition to training on Saturday, girls and boys also learn through online instructions and through home training.

Is there something Circus Zebrasco has not shown yet?

Yes, for example Rola Bola. These are balance acrobatics on a board above a roller. Maybe we can still do it.

Would you say that girls and boys definitely benefit when they “do the circus”?

Yes. This is not only physical exercise, but for example juggling also trains the brain, this is a proven fact. Since many things can only be done together, social skills are fostered, and appearing in front of people is good for self-confidence. And children and adolescents learn to deal with disappointments. Sometimes things don’t go as well as expected or planned.

Ruben König often takes part in the Zebrasco circus juggling.  (archival image)

Ruben König often takes part in the Zebrasco circus juggling. (archival image) | Photo: Ursula Freudig

What we haven’t even talked about is money – you pointed out earlier that materials cost a lot of money. How is the Zebrasco circus financed?

Of course, our goal is not to make money at the circus, but the materials are really expensive. We have certainly invested thousands of euros from the beginning. We finance ourselves through performances. In many performances, such as Children’s Days in Tiengen, we collect hats. Income varies greatly, sometimes you can reach up to 300 euros. In addition, there are performances that we arrange privately, e.g. for children’s birthdays, or for events such as anniversaries or Christmas events by companies and organizations. We charge a fee for this. It also happens that we do not take money at all, e.g. at charity events. Basically everything we earn is immediately reinvested. Not only in materials, but also e.g. in uniform clothing or technology. We perform in very different places which means we need a music system and a laptop.

What have been the unique performances so far and where will you be able to see the Zebrasco circus?

The highlight was certainly our performance in Blois, the French partner city of Waldshut-Tiengen in December 2016 with an overnight stay at a youth hostel as part of the WT Pur. Another took place in July 2021 at Technorama in Winterthur: we showed acrobatics on air silk that hung on a 17-meter bridge over the water. The shows at the Europark Rust and our excursions to Lake Constance during the holidays are always something special. We were also at the youth circus festival in Stuttgart. But most of our shows take place in the neighborhood. In June, you can see us at the village festival in Reckingen, at the summer solstice festival in Grießen and at the forest festival in Lauchringen. July is the first in a series of concerts at the Schwyzertag in Tiengen. All information about us can be found on our website (www.zirkus-zebrasco.de).

Is there such a thing as a dream or wish that the Zebrasco circus would still like to fulfill?

Of course, it would be nice to have your own circus tent, but to be honest it’s totally unreal.

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