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When the Circus Comes to Town

BURLINGTON As Burlingtons First Night festivities drew thousands of people into a whirlwind of activities on Dec. 31, two talented circus acts packed Memorial Auditorium for four hours of juggling, trapeezing and joking. Widely different, Circus Smirkus, a troupe of nearly 15 individuals, focused more intensely on the fun and light-hearted side of circus performance, while the Gemini Trapeze and Nimble Arts, a group of only 6, delved more deeply into the entrancing and seductive rhythms of their movements. Gemini Trapeze also featured comic interludes between two men dressed like elves, one short, the other enormous, but these acts stood in marked contrast to the trapeze acts which were the focus of the performance. Circus Smirkus was more oriented toward the children in the audience, as their juggling, trapeze and Spanish silk performers maintained a jovial atmosphere despite the intense focus that their perfection required. Smirkus has turned attention to children into their modus operandi by opening summer camps for kids of all circus abilities age 6-18 at their headquarters in Greensboro, Vermont. The camps, which feature instruction in acrobatics, juggling, clowning, trapeze, perch, tightwire, Spanish web, unicycling, stiltwalking and more, run as long as 2 weeks, or a short as 2 days. At the end of each summer, a company of selected Smirkus campers age 10-18 makes a two-month performance tour of New England. Nimble Arts is a circus production company founded by Elsie Smith & Serenity Smith Forchion, identical twins, who performed under the name Gemini Trapeze for years, touring with Cirque de Soleils Saltimbanco show for four years. The next performance of Nimble Arts will be at the Wedding Day Expositions Bridal Show in Boston on Jan. 8, where the troupe will present the romantic circus duet routine which they frequently perform at weddings and wedding receptions. On Feb. 1, the group will begin touring Vermont, New York and Massachusetts, with a new routine, The Love Show, which they dub as a two-hour family friendly combination of circus and vaudeville with a little burlesque thrown in. In addition to their summer camps, Circus Smirkus also offers what they call a Smirkus Residency, in which a circus professional will come to a school for one to two weeks to work with kids every day on developing circus-oriented talents. Smirkus website emphasizes the importance of non-competitive activities amongst youth, a field which is often overlooked in schools amid the constant focus on competition in sports and academics. Kids and staff learning new skills together without any element of competition is the heart of our education philosophy, says the Smirkus website. Circus Smirkus was founded in 1987 on a 200-year old farm in Greensboro, thereby initiating the first traveling circus Vermont had seen in over 100 years. More information on Circus Smirkus can be found on their website, www.smirkus.org, and on Gemini Trapeze and the Nimble Arts at their website, www.nimblearts.org .

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