In the Spotlight

Charles Dolbel, New Zealand Circus Arts Entertainer

                                      Originally posted Apr 18, 2007 in MBD2


New Zealander Charles Dolbel, corporate entertainer, keeps many plates spinning, so to speak, between personal and professional involvements.

“My gorgeous wife and my 3.5 year old and 4 month old sons are the most important, closely followed by running Auckland’s only regular balloon jams, organising NZ’s largest balloon sculpture made from 260’s (a 5-metre long, two metre high tram) and trying as hard as possible to raise the profile of balloon art in New Zealand,” he said. In addition, he retails balloons to other NZ artists.

Dolbel has been performing about seven years as a circus arts entertainer and two years prior to that as a performance poet. “I learned how to unicycle while at University, a friend gave me a unicycle. (I) picked up a fire staff, loved it, and later people started offering to pay me. (I) saw the gap in the corporate market and never looked back,” he said.

“My entertaining was full-time before my son was born, now it is part-time for full-time money, in addition to my day job (as a sales executive). This allows my wife to stay home and look after the kids as long as she wants to, and keep the bills paid,” he said.

He currently books “mostly local, and almost all corporate or local government work. I aim for the adult’s-only gigs, rather than the children’s market,” he said. “I prefer the corporate and high-profile events, such as celebrity weddings, etc.” He is busy all year around, and business picks up quite a bit near Christmas, however he will turn down gigs in order to preserve family time. In addition, he performs for three charity events a year. On a deeper note, over the years Dolbel has observed that a person deserves respect and tolerance regardless of how much they show to others.

His specialties include Fire Performing with single and double fire staffs (no fire breathing), Juggling, Unicycling, MC’ing, and Extreme Balloon Sculpting.

In his fire performances he uses “mostly long firestaves, 1.4 metres in length (no knives), they have blended Kevlar wicks on the end that absorb the fuel and have a higher burning temperature than the flames, so they do not degrade quickly,” he said. “On occasion I’ve done poi and fire juggling clubs, but my preference is firestaves.”

The Extreme Balloon Sculpting includes detailed, large pieces and super fast twisting. “My performance is designed to look like I’m twisting fast, even though it may not break any world records for speed. Also, challenging groups to think of things I can’t make out of balloons and then making it. Great fun,” he said. He also enjoys making toys such as weeble-type toys and moving balls in balloon machines. Part of his extreme twisting performance also includes moving up quite a few notches on the complexity scale. “Even if asked for a dog or a sword, they will be great looking multi-balloon sculptures instead of simple ones,” he added.

Recently, Dolbel said a performance he was particularly proud of was at a high profile event which had the prime minister, amongst others, in attendance. He choreographed a fireshow with another artist. He used the single and double fire staff and his associate used a single staff. There were lots of high speed moves, neck wraps, and burnoffs (giant fireballs coming off the ends of the staves). Plus a mock fight between the two of them for about a minute. “That is a close second to a 50th party recently where the birthday boy took the three-foot paraglider sculpture I made and ran around the 500 guests with it showing everyone. Brought a tear to my eye,” he added.

In addition to the circus arts skills that Dolbel performs, he also offers Fantastic Customer Service. “One example is that I do not book gigs three hours before or three hours after any other gig. This means, as in a case last year, they were running one hour behind schedule, and many other entertainers left to go to other gigs, whereas I was able to do a full performance at the time they wanted. Part of being able to do this is to charge much higher rates than average, so you work less gigs for the same or more money,” he said.

While Dolbel’s family is his primary motivation and inspiration, when he wants to unwind he goes for a long unicycle ride. Has he ever felt like he ‘made it‘? “I have never made it, I can always improve!” he exclaimed.

Advice for newbies? “Practice and keep on top of your ethics and morals as much as your other skills. They are what defines a successful business person far more than any other skill,” Dolbel said.

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