A story-telling and photo exhibit, “Gather Round: Stories & Images of the Circus,” will be part of NECCA’s Circus Workshop Weekend.
Michael Poster
A story-telling and photo exhibit, “Gather Round: Stories & Images of the Circus,” will be part of NECCA’s Circus Workshop Weekend.

Circus Workshop Weekend draws international roster of artists, educators

BRATTLEBORO — New England Center for Circus Arts' (NECCA) Circus Workshop Weekend is returning for the first time since the pandemic, Nov. 3–5. The inaugural event was 10 years ago. The weekend will offer space for the circus community to gather for workshops, community events, and performances with participants from New Zealand, England, Canada, and the U.S.

"Brattleboro has become home for American Circus, and NECCA's Circus Workshop Weekend is a celebration of this vibrant community," say organizers.

"Brattleboro won Strongest Town for a reason, and our students not only make Brattleboro a place to call home while they are here to train, it is a place they come back to over and over again, to teach and to perform and to live," NECCA Executive Director Jenna Struble said in a news release.

The opening event on Friday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. is a first-ever storytelling and photo exhibit called "Gather Round: Stories and images of the circus," showcasing the intersection between circus, theater, and art. Circus notables, including NECCA co-founders Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion, will share tales from tours and performances inspired by the theme of Resilience in Circus. Alongside the stories, photographs of circus artists as muses by Jeff Lewis, Evie Lovett, and Michael Poster will be on display.

Ten of NECCA's notable alumni will return to Brattleboro to teach as well as perform in the third annual cabaret-style "Alumni Showcase" on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7 and 9 p.m. The roster of performers (see below) demonstrates the talents that NECCA has fostered on circus stages worldwide in companies such as Cirque du Soleil, The 7 Fingers, and Troupe Vertigo

The weekend closes with NECCA's monthly open-mic performance "Beta Night" on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. This month's prompt is "Inferno: what fires you up? What fuels you? What rises from the ashes?"

Beta Night is a monthly, curated show featuring a variety of acts with the aim of encouraging artistic risk-taking, creativity, art, and play with a welcoming and supportive audience. Each month has a prompt, and performers are free to use as much or as little of it as inspires them. Audiences will see new pieces, old pieces brought back to life, and works in progress.

More than 40 workshops will take place over the course of the weekend, and they are geared toward people new to circus and those looking to deepen their knowledge of a particular discipline. This year there will be a workshop on mental health in circus for educators, led by guest coach and artist Janelle Dinosaurs of Cirque Psych.

NECCA's Alumni Showcase Performers include:

• Jay Clement, a NECCA ProTrack graduate based in Aotearoa (New Zealand), tells theatrical stories through aerial dance on the straps apparatus and co-founded an award-winning circus theatre company, Manubrium Circus Theatre.

• Siblings Ben and Sophie Kaufman, who return to Brattleboro where they grew up in NECCA's Youth Performance Troupe. Ben arrives from London where they are a full-time circus professional specializing in handbalancing and hula hoops. Sophie returns from Boston with an aerial rings act she devised at Esh Circus Arts where she teaches and performs.

• Brooke Locke, who has just jumped ship for a rest from touring with the world renowned 7 Fingers company and returns to NECCA with her solo pole act first created while a student in ProTrack.

• Bailey Scherer, who is a Los Angeles-based circus artist specializing in baton twirling and dance trapeze and has performed her work across the country, from festivals in San Diego and Las Vegas to classic symphony halls with Troupe Vertigo.

• Chelsea Barrett, a longtime NECCA staff member and ProTrack graduate, who presents a dynamic aerial silks act and is the director of NECCA's next production, the Winter Circus.

• Locksley Maclean, who returns from Northern Ontario, bringing her tight wire act back to NECCA where she graduated in 2021.

• Abigail Felstehausen, a circus artist and stage manager based in Madison, Wisconsin, who is returning to NECCA where she graduated with her high flying aerial lyra act.

• Rachel Rees, who is originally from New Orleans but currently calls Vermont home when not on tour. Recently, Rachel performed on Virgin Voyages with The 7 Fingers and Kaleidoscope Entertainment. She will be performing her rope number on tour with Cirque Dreams, Holidaze this holiday season.

• Violet Defiant, a multidisciplinary circus artist, specializing in acrobatics and lyric storytelling. She is also a college professor who juggles with her feet.

For workshop and event information, and to purchase show tickets, visit necenterforcircusarts.org.

This The Arts item was submitted to The Commons.

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