BUDAPEST • After months of practising aerial acrobatics suspended from the ceiling in her tiny apartment in Budapest with only her cats for an audience, Hungarian circus artiste Eszter Kovacs is relishing the prospect of performing in front of people again.
With Covid-19 restrictions beginning to ease in Hungary, where 40 per cent of the population has been vaccinated, outdoor shows in parks and at cafe terraces are now possible. Hopes are rising for a vibrant summer of festivals and concerts.
Kovacs - whose skills also include fire-juggling - maintained her fitness during lockdown through a daily regimen of yoga, long walks and acrobatic exercises using two flexible hoops hanging from the ceiling of her 24 sq m living space.
For the fire-juggling, which would not have been safe to attempt in such a confined space, she used the narrow courtyard of her apartment block.
"We simply had no choice. For us, this is not work - this is passion," she said.
Kovacs belongs to an innovative performing arts troupe called Taurin Circus.
The group's first performance of the season for paying spectators has been scheduled for June 13 at a festival.
In the meantime, it has planned a series of informal outdoor performances, where audiences can donate money if they wish.
The first show, a masked street theatre act performed on stilts with another arts group, took place at Budapest's City Park.
Despite the cold, windy conditions, a sizeable crowd gathered to watch, visibly enjoying live entertainment after a long hiatus.
This marked a welcome change after months of interaction with audiences being strictly online.
For Kovacs, that took the form of a regular fortune-telling show on Facebook, in which her black cat would pick tarot cards.
Her fellow troupe member, pole acrobat Kata Ott-Balogh, also had to adapt to the peculiar circumstances of the lockdown.
She installed two vertical poles in the middle of her living room, which also serves as an office.
Also in the troupe is professional magician Balazs Gyertyan, who gave up his job at a marketing agency in 2016, only for his new career to be brought to a halt by the pandemic.
He used the lockdown to work on new acts with his blue-eyed dog, Lupin, which can perform card tricks.
He also learnt new skills in videography and photography while running an online magic show that helped him get by financially.
"This past year was not about abundance... But it was good to see it is possible to live a lower-cost life... and I don't need to fall into despair if there is a problem," he said.