New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

The music of Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams, all sung in the Amharic language, celebrates Ethiopia’s artistic and cultural heritage as a sovereign African nation. These were the songs creators Bibi and Bichu took with them as young boys on their first journey from Ethiopia to work in circuses around the world. Mixing the traditional and the contemporary, the music invites you to join the cast in celebrating their country's rich heritage. Listen here as you read more about the exuberant and powerful songs associated with each act of Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams.

Opening Dance and Hand-Vaulting—"Abebayehosh" by Teddy Afro
"Abebayehosh" by Teddy Afro is a modern take on a classical song. Traditionally, it is sung by young girls in the early morning of the New Year, caroling door-to-door in exchange for bread or fruit. Meaning "blessing," it bestows well-wishes on its listeners. 


Photo: Maike Schulz


Contortion—"Ambassal" by Haymanot Tesfa
This beloved song was inspired by one of the country's most ancient places—Ambassel, a mountain fortress once ruled by the Jantiraran aristocratic family. It is also the name of one of the Ethiopian musical scales, signifying how integral the relationship between land and music is to Ethiopia's national identity.

Photo: Andrey Petrov

Rolla Bolla—"Maringue Cha" by DJ Same
A song sung by a man to a woman who loves him, he's teasing her for feigning disinterest in him. The title "Maringe Cha" plays on the merengue, a dance exported to Ethiopia from the Dominican Republic. Despite the nod to another culture, the song itself is very much Ethiopian in style and is essentially about the dance of lovers as they tease and playfully rebuff each other.


Rolla Bolla
Photo: Maike Schulz

Cloth-Spinning—"Darign" by Jano Band
"Darign" translates to "permission" and denotes a ceremonial send-off for a bride. In this song, a woman sings about how she fell in love with a man for his eyes and now wants to marry him. In the show, four cloth-spinning women perform in response to the woman's story in a scene of playful, gossiping sisterhood. 

Photo: Andrey Petrov

Aerial Chain Act—"Dunya" by Anteneh Minalu
"Dunya" is a lament about time and destiny—a complaint that no matter how hard we work or what we do, time will catch up with us. "Dunya" means "earth" in Amharic, and also extends beyond its literal meaning to mean the universe and all of mankind. 


Aerial Chains
Photo: Maike Schulz


Icarian Games—"Hager Alegn" by Jano Band
Meaning "I have a country," this song celebrates Ethiopia as a land of origins—as the cradle of humanity, the source of the Blue Nile, the birthplace of coffee. It also calls for respect between cultures and for all of us around the world to embrace our unity, even as we acknowledge our differences. 


Icarian Games
Photo: Maike Schulz


Hula-Hoop—"Kal" by Jano Band
"Kal" is another song from Ethiopia's premier musical group—Jano Band, a leader in the creation of new Ethiopian music, and the first pioneer of Ethiopian rock. "Kal" means "vow" and the song describes a young woman's promise to herself to never be impressed with money or material things and to never forget that love is the most beautiful and precious gift of all. In the show, we also see this "vow" transform into an artist’s promise to herself to never lose touch with the sheer joy of performing.


Photo: Maike Schulz


Contortion Dance—"Misekir" by Fikreaddis Nekatibeb
"Misekir" in English means "witness," and this song tells the story of the triumph of love over money. "Misekir" accompanies the final contortion act, performed by four young women—a celebratory, life-affirming exploration of what is possible when individual limits are surpassed by people working and performing together.

Photo: Che Chorley


Rigging of the Chinese Poles—"Tikur Sew" by Teddy Afro
The lyrics asserts Ethiopia as an example for all African nations to follow, describing the country as the cradle of humanity to which the beginnings of history and culture can be traced, the only nation to be ruled by an African monarchy until 1975 and a country that has resisted all attempts to colonize it.

This scene harkens back to creators Bibi and Bichu's childhood. As young boys, Bibi and Bichu would wake at 3:00am and walk five miles to the Boye Dam. There, they would pluck large, heavy reeds to create safety mats to perform acrobatics after school. While they carried the reeds from the dam in the dark, they warded off their fears and exhaustion by singing their favorite chants and songs. When the troupe rigs the Chinese Poles for the show's final act, they act out the age-old work tradition of keeping spirits high by joining voices in song.

Chinese Pole and Finale—"Utopia" by Bang La Decks
This infectiously upbeat song is a modern electro dance-track that plays on a traditional Amharic saying, "Ethiopia hiwote," meaning "Ethiopia, my life," or, "My life is Ethiopia." The lyrics extend an invitation to dance in celebration of Ethiopia's "Utopia."


Chinese Pole
Photo: Che Chorley

Posted by Beth Henderson

When brothers Bibi and Bichu were growing up in Ethiopia, they dreamt of a land where circus is celebrated and all are welcome to participate. In Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams, their goals become a reality. This holiday season, the two brothers, alongside a talented company, share epic body contortions, jaw dropping juggling routines and truly daring stunts.

In this Family Activity, make shapes with your body, compete in a balancing challenge and create a dreamboard to help you envision your ambitions!

At Home
The contortionists of Circus Abyssinia create unbelievable shapes with the simplest circus prop—their bodies. In this activity, see how many different poses you can make with your own!

Materials: Your body
Step One: See if you can make your body into the following shapes.


  • Can you make this shape as big as possible? As small as possible?
  • Can you make this shape with just your arms? Just your legs? Just your face?
Step Two: Now that you and your family members have practiced twisting your bodies into different shapes, it's time to pass the pose!
  • Strike any pose you'd like and see how quickly your family members can mimic you.
  • Then, it's their turn to strike a pose.
Try any of these challenges for extra fun:
  • Keep passing the pose back and forth until someone runs out of ideas.
  • See how quickly you can pass the poses back and forth.
  • Try to hold each pose for as long as possible.
On Your Way
Ever wonder how circus performers are able to balance, toss, catch and throw things all at once? Through practice, of course! In this activity, challenge yourself and your family members to a balancing act.

Materials: One small item of your choice for each family member, like a coin, bottle cap or a ball of paper

Step One: Choose your item and see if you can balance it. To get started, try balancing it on the back of your hand (not in your palm). Then, try it on your thumb. Mastered that? Now try it on the top of your pointer finger.

Some balancing tips:
  • Keep your eye on a fixed point—usually at the center or top of the item you are balancing.
  • Keep your body as still as possible.
  • Breathe and concentrate.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up!
Step Two: Try to balance your item on different parts of your body. Can you try:
  • Your knee?
  • Your forehead?
  • Your foot?
  • Your shoulder?
Step Three: It's time to have a Balance Battle! With your travel buddy (or buddies) start balancing your item at the same time. See who can last the longest!

After the Show
Bibi and Bichu Tesfamariam first fell in love with the circus when they saw their teacher juggling. They would run home to practice with household items, like oranges! Ethiopia did not have a professional circus at the time, but they would perform everywhere and anywhere—at festivals, school, on street corners or in marketplaces. 

One day, a circus was travelling through their town and saw the brothers juggling—the circus immediately recognized their talent and hired them. Now, Bibi and Bichu helm their own circus and sponsor a circus school in Ethiopia called Circus Wingate, where they train many young performers. Read more of their story here!

Bibi and Bichu
Photo: Rod Penn

Now that you have seen the show and learned their story, think about the following questions:
  • How did the show make you feel? Happy? Dreamy? Sad? Silly?
  • Which was your favorite circus act? What did you like about it?
  • Did you recognize Bibi and Bichu's journey to the circus in the show? Which parts helped tell that story?
In Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams, you saw that they turned their dream into a reality. What dreams do you hope to achieve in the future? In this activity, create a visual representation of your goals and aspirations—in other words, a dreamboard! 

Here is an example for inspiration: 


Materials: Scissors, magazines or newspapers, glue or tape, cardstock or poster board, markers, stickers, trinkets and keepsakes

Step One: Everyone has hopes or wishes for the future—think about one of your own. Do you want to be a computer programmer, an author or work with rescued dogs? Is there somewhere you want to travel, like Ethiopia, France or Costa Rica?

Choose one goal as a theme for your dreamboard. If you have more dreams you'd like to bring to life, make separate boards for each of them.

Step Two: Look through the magazines and newspapers while thinking about your dream. Notice words and images that inspire you. Cut out all the words, photographs and drawings that relate to your dream—the more colorful and positive, the better! 

Step Three: Arrange these clippings on your poster board. Once the collage design looks great, glue everything in place, step back and admire your work. 

BONUS: Do you have any small trinkets or keepsakes that make you think of your goal, like meaningful ribbons, stamps, shells or buttons? Pin them to your dreamboard to make your 2D work 3D!

Step Four: Hang up the dream board somewhere you'll see it often. Keep adding to it as your dreams grow and don't stop until they come true!

And Beyond
Posted by Beth Henderson
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