A community tied together

NECCA workshop will bring rope artists to town — not for a performance but as an opportunity for coaches and pros to develop and commune over a shared passion

BRATTLEBORO — The New England Center for Circus Arts is holding a ropes workshop that builds not only strength but relationships within the circus arts school's community.

As described on its website, the workshop, Rope Meeting, is a “creative space for rope artists from all over the world to meet, share, connect, learn, and reflect.”

NECCA will “provide the space and the community and you bring your excitement and skills you want to practice and the fun builds from there in an open training format.”

New England Center for Circus Arts Co-founder Elsie Smith has been facilitating this workshop since it started in 2019 and has been practicing and teaching circus arts for 30 years.

“My twin sister [Serenity Smith Forchion] and I moved to Brattleboro to join our family here after we'd been on tour with the circus for many years, and we started the New England Center for Circus Arts,” Smith said. “In that program, we started a professional training program.”

Smith said that Erika Radcliffe and Molly Graves, graduates of the professional training program, ended up in Barcelona, where they were introduced to a rope meeting there.

“They were so excited about the idea of 70 to 100 people getting together in a room with this one shared passion within the circus arts - and the social, as well as physical, part of it - that they brought the idea back to me,” Smith said.

Learning the ropes

The Rope Meeting will run over four days, June 8–11.

NECCA Coach Cody Hayman is the lead support person for the workshop, along with three other instructors who will be assisting throughout the day.

Seventy people will participate this year, and they will come from all over the U.S., Canada and farther afield as well.

“The feeling of 70 people in a room together sharing something they're passionate about, especially after the pandemic, is really wonderful,” Smith said.

“You can't do the sport and the athleticism without being present,” Smith said. “And practicing and trying and getting a bunch of people together who can support and encourage, teach, inspire, and make you laugh while you're working really hard is, I think, a really special thing in this time.”

Smith said that her staff loves “the opportunity to take your coach hat off,” entering a space that dispenses with hierarchies and where “you're not in charge of all of the things, [and] you can participate in, join in, and really be with equals and with peers.”

The workshop requires a minimum skill level: “For self-assessed intermediate, advanced, and professional-level circus artists with a regular rope practice.”

“To support a creatively safe environment, there will be no auditing or public viewing,” the website says.

“The people who are joining us are people who are going to have had some instruction in some physical capacity and people who can trust themselves to stay safe in the air and if you meet those basics, you can get a lot out of it.” Smith said.

Other circus arts genres are in the offing based on the success of the Rope Meeting. Smith said that NECCA will be launching a similar fabric arts meeting in July.

“We hope to continue to expand those in other areas as well,” she said.

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