NEXT GENERATION: Sophie and Kasia Barnett at a training session with their 94-year-old acrobatics teacher Mai Belogamba. Mai was performing with JC Williamson’s at the age of nine. Photo: Nolan Verheij-full
NEXT GENERATION: Sophie and Kasia Barnett at a training session with their 94-year-old acrobatics teacher Mai Belogamba. Mai was performing with JC Williamson’s at the age of nine. Photo: Nolan Verheij-full

Meet Tweed's 94-year-old acrobatic teacher

IF YOUR new year's resolution is to get fit, take a page out of Mai Belogamba's book.

The spritely 94-year-old from West Tweed keeps active by teaching budding acrobats to flip, tumble and somersault in her garage.

She tried to retire in 2012 after 20 years of coaching at Coastal Dance Theatre, Currumbin, but students have kept queuing at her door.

Sophie, 9, and Kasia Barnett, 15, from Banora Point are second generation students of Mrs Belogamba and have been learning acrobatics with her since they were three.

"Mai's classes teach you discipline, manners and how to respect your teachers.

"Nothing compares to Mai's foundation exercises and technique. My favourite trick is the chest rolls, they're a great party trick," Kasia said.

Mrs Belogamba has been teaching circus tricks for 40 years and her first professional gig was at the tender age of nine, when she was a contortionist at JC Williamson Theatres in Sydney.

In 1935, when she was 15, she walked a tight rope over the showgrounds of the newly opened Luna Park.

"I had a trapeze in my mouth and balanced my partner on it. It was over the big dipper roller coaster where everyone could see us and my mother nearly had a heart attack!"

Mrs Belogamba went on to add classical ballet, trapeze and taming tigers into her circus act repertoire.

"We were up in Cairns and we were going to open the exhibition and they wanted to feature tigers. We were talking in the tent, and I said 'oh I'll train the tiger'... and that was it!"

Mrs Belogamba holds no special secrets to longevity and attributes her fitness to plain, old-fashioned exercise and good food in moderation.

"I don't drink, I don't smoke and I've always done a fair bit of exercise. The parents don't realise that in my day you never had the fridge full of beer. These days it's there all the time, so the kids think it's an everyday thing."

She has strong words for the new, tech-generation of parents who are stuck on Facebook while their kids are glued to the TV.

"I blame the parents for a lot of the behaviour of the children these days because they give computers to them to keep them occupied, and they look in those computers as if everything in them is right. The kids are lovely, it's not their fault."

Mrs Belogamba's New Year's resolution is to spend the year with her family.



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