NECCA Show at Redfern Arts Center

This article was originally posted on The Keene Sentinel. Read the full article here.

For the past three years, the lives of a group of circus students in Brattleboro have been woven together. After this weekend’s graduation show, those lives will split apart as they embark on careers around the world.

The New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) will present “Intertwine,” an original new work in which nine stories of growth and discovery are told through acrobatics and circus arts, this Saturday, May 13, at the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College.

“There will be nine performers all getting a chance to share their story within the context of the show’s narrative,” said Serenity Smith Forchion, NECCA co-founder with her twin sister, Elsie Smith. The siblings, who performed together in Cirque du Soleil, started the school in 2007 and immediately launched ProTrack, a full-time, three-year training school for aspiring circus professionals (one of the longest-running in the U.S.).

Students choose majors and minors in more than a dozen apparatuses including traditional ones like trapeze, trampoline, aerial fabric and rope, and some more obscure ones like the Tippy Lyra, the German Wheel and the Static Cloud Swing.

“Intertwine” is this year’s touring show—it will go to three states (New York, Vermont and New Hampshire) for four performances—and serve as a final thesis. The first touring show was in 2019—and then the pandemic hit.

“This is the first year we can fully embrace what we planned for the tour,” said Forchion.

In ProTrack, students learn tour-specific skills including how to rig in a theater, coordinate travel logistics, manage props and costumes, communicate with producers, and cohabitate with each other during the three weeks of productions.

ProTrack students spend much of their third and final year at NECCA preparing: creating their own acts, assembling photos and videos of their work, building resumés and websites. NECCA helps them pursue auditions and also hosts them for other companies.

While NECCA has offered hundreds of recreational classes to the local community over the past 16 years, it has also turned out hundreds of professional artists who perform and coach in shows and training studios around the world.

The final thesis show includes personal works created throughout the three-year program, during which students work with coaches and with a director and choreographer.

For “Intertwine,” students worked with Mark Lonergan, Canadian-born founding artistic director of Parallel Exit, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based original physical theater company. His resume includes productions for The Big Apple Circus, Opera North, Disney Cruise Lines, and Theatreworks/USA. He was also the Creative Director for the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour for five seasons and is one of the founders of the American Circus Alliance, of which Smith and Forchion are members.

Each year, ProTrack students work with a new director—while NECCA has maintained a long relationship with Lonergan, this year marks the first time he has directed ProTrack students.

“We wanted students to be able to work with a recognized and experienced director,” said Forchion. “As far as their future careers, Mark can introduce them to people and hire them.”

“Intertwine,” so named because all of its stories are connected to one another, focuses on what’s happening both on and behind the stage.

“The lead character is the rigger of the show and wants to be a performer,” said Forchion, adding that the performance features comedic and heartfelt moments about personal experiences.

“It’s a family friendly circus show for all ages,” she added, “and it’s non-verbal so anyone can enjoy it. It’s truly accessible in that way.”

The New England Center for Circus Arts will present “Intertwine” Saturday, May 13, for two shows at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State Collee. Tickets are $5 for the general public, free for Keene State students and available at


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International director joins NECCA’s educational team for ‘Intertwine’

BRATTLEBORO — The New England Center for Circus Arts has teamed up with Mark Lonergan, Canadian-born founding artistic director of Parallel Exit, in the creation of a show that is going on tour.

Intertwine (stylized in all caps), will debut at NECCA’s trapezium at 7:30 p.m. April 22 in Brattleboro.

Serenity Smith Forchion, NECCA co-Founder and former Cirque du Soleil performer framed the importance of the connection with Lonergan. “Mark is the real deal when it comes to devising creative shows from the ingredients our students now have to bring to him. I’ve had a chance to watch him work during their initial research week back in February — showing him acts on swinging trapeze, handstands, German wheel, and more,” Forchion said.

Tickets are on sale at with links to the full tour. The show creation and tour are funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Arts Council, New England Foundation for the Arts, as well as sponsor businesses Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Holiday Inn Express, BackRoads Granola, Oak Meadow, Berkeley & Veller, and Bill Sapsis.

Read the full article here.

Aerial Yoga class offers health benefits

BRATTLEBORO — Aerial Yoga is now offered through the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) to Brattleboro area residents. Beginners of all ages and body types are welcome in this yoga flow class that utilizes loops of fabric attached to the ceiling to support the body. Participants experience suspension on professionally and safely installed equipment while staying close to the floor with low impact sequences that release tension and endorphins. For yoga practitioners, the loops of fabric make inversions and yoga poses more accessible.

Numerous benefits come from Aerial Yoga including relieving joint pressure and spinal compression that floor workouts can trigger, increased balance, improved breath and body awareness, and enhanced core strength that is preventative for back and joint health. Experience the health and wellness benefits of Aerial Yoga at NECCA’s Cotton Mill Studio during weekly classes on Tuesdays at 7:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. starting March 21. For more information, call 802-254-9780 or visit

Read the full article here.

Circus Spectacular 2023 in the Commons

The 2023 Circus Spectacular was featured in the Commons Magazine this year!

Look … up in the air … it’s a flying policeman!

BRATTLEBORO — Taking to the air, members of the Brattleboro Police Department and other first responders with their families participated in a free night on the flying trapeze at the New England Center for Circus Arts.

The event was meant to honor the hard work and dedication of first responders, and NECCA plans to honor three different groups at later dates.

Brattleboro Police Lt. Adam Petlock was one of the first responders to participate in the program and said he had a similar experience when he was in the police academy about 15 years ago.

Read the full article here.

Diving to success: Cirque du Soleil program teaches hoop diving at New England Center for Circus Arts

BRATTLEBORO — Circus artists gradually gained more control over acrobatic maneuvers through hoops, thanks to Cirque Du Soleil workshops hosted at New England Center for Circus Arts.

“I have to say it was a crash course, 10 days, trying to go through everything, but I believe I’m able to teach them safely,” said Gergely Boi, a head coach with Cirque du Soleil. “The point is to learn the basics and enjoy what they’re doing. It was a good progression.”

Jenna Struble, executive director at NECCA, said her group approached Cirque du Soleil last year to ask for some assistance with coaching. The Brattleboro-based circus school then received information about the NextGen Program offered by the Canadian company and largest contemporary circus producer in the world.

“The NextGen Program is really to help locate identified disciplines at risk,” Struble said, or “something that maybe schools aren’t teaching on a regular basis like teeterboard, hoop diving, Russian bar — these really beautiful, broad circus disciplines that have traditionally been plentiful but now are not.”

With Cirque du Soleil having many of those acts in its shows, the group seeks out schools to host the NextGen Program. Struble said NECCA currently is one of six schools in the world selected to participate.

Workshops this month marked the first time the program came to NECCA. Participating were students enrolled in NECCA’s ProTrack Program and circus artists from around the U.S.

“It’s also a really great opportunity for our coaches to get mentored,” Struble said. “We are the premiere circus school in the United States but we have a lot to catch up to with schools in Montreal, of course. Montreal is the circus headquarters of North America.”

NECCA’s mission is to empower staff, students and the community with “the transformative power of circus arts,” Struble said. She noted participants in the school’s ProTrack Program seek to become employable in the field.

“If there’s not a lot of training facilities in the world doing hoop diving,” she said, “our students learning hoop diving gives them a leg up for when they want to get a job in the future.”

NECCA recently purchased a Russian bar. Struble hopes to add the discipline in the future.

The NextGen Program “has been really, really great,” said Ben Huey of Cincinnati, Ohio, who currently works in circus arts in Quebec and doesn’t have a lot of experience in hoop diving.

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“Being accepted was a really cool experience, just that,” Huey said. “Working with Gergely … he’s a really amazing, detailed coach.”

Huey completed the ProTrack Program in 2014 and 2015, then stayed on as a coach at NECCA in 2015 and 2016 and returned to coach in summer 2018. He also has coached at circus schools in Quebec City.

Boi provided participants with “attainable goals each session” to be able to progress without feeling pressure about working with a coach from Cirque du Soleil, Huey said. They started with thinking about how to go through hoops after dive rolls and cartwheels.

Boi “would look at our form then give us corrections about what he thought we needed to work on before we go through a hula hoop that he held in his hand,” Huey said. “And then we just progressed that way until we were going through the stacks of hoops that are out there, which are a little bit harder. They’re stuck on by magnets so if you hit them, it’s not like the end of the world, but it’s not fun either.”

Huey said the workshops featured a lot of duo work and some group movements. After gaining confidence, he feels he can train in the discipline on his own and with friends in Quebec.

“NECCA was where I started circus,” he said, “so to come back and be able to continue to push myself to further my career and make new connections and reinforce old connections has just been really nice.”

Boi described the NextGen Program as a way to find candidates and add to the casting pool for different disciplines. By teaching coaches at the circus schools, the discipline can continue to be taught after his group leaves. The program began in 2017.

As a coach, Boi said he believes he should not just teach his students, but learn from them.

“To be creative,” he added, “you have to let them shine and listen to their ideas.”

As a coach who formerly performed with Cirque du Soleil, Boi said the work never gets boring. He touted the large amount of space available for training at NECCA.

Struble said the Brattleboro school currently has 238 students enrolled, with 34 in the ProTrack program.

Read the full article here.

WCAX News Story on NECCA

We’re celebrating 15 years of circus in Vermont and we can’t wait to keep growing in this community! Check out this story from WCAX who captured just a little bit of what we do:

  • Welcoming students from all over the world
  • Longest running professional training program in the US
  • Only custom built circus facility in the US
  • Accessible classes for all ages, abilities, and aspirations

[Description: A news station reports on the 15 year anniversary celebration and Open House at NECCA. Co-founder Elsie Smith talks with the reporter about NECCA’s role in American circus. Outside, adult students are juggling and inside, children and youth students demonstrate and play on aerial equipment.]

Year Anniversary Open House – WCAX 15

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) – The New England Center for Circus Arts is celebrating 15 years of circus. And they’re not clowning around.

“NECCA is the mecca for circus arts in the United States,” said Elsie Smith, the co-founder of the center.

Founded in 2007 the New England Center for Circus Arts or NECCA is an internationally recognized non-profit circus school, known for its outstanding physical and creative programming for students of all ages and abilities.

“If you’re one and a half you can come if you’re 102 you can come, we do everything,” said Smith

From trapeze to tightrope walking aerial skills and juggling the center draws interested students from all across the country serving over 2,00o people each year.

“It’s the only circus arts facility in the United States and to have it with you right here in Brattleboro, Vermont, which most people think of as a small little town… we also bring people in from all over the world,” said Smith.

The founders say their goal is to empower a community of artists, students, performers, and instructors to strengthen their skills and achieve their goals through the mesmerizing and joyful power of circus arts

“We might use the term circus very loosely like Oh, politics or Circus. But Circus is actually about people coming together, working together, building the community and doing hard things, and dangerous and scary things together in a really positive way.”

And say they’re proud to be able to provide such a unique activity to the area and community

“We just started to start teaching in the community. And that community instead of feeling like circus was really weird. They embraced us and just kept asking us for more and before we knew it, we had what is now the longest running professional training program for circus artists in the country, and one of the largest circus schools in the country,” said Smith

And now that they’ve reached 15 years, performers and students at the center says they’re looking forward to many more

“I feel super lucky to be able to come here… I just really like it I like to be able to do physical stuff in my body. I like to artistic part of that I just like everything,” said Eowin Jakub a student performer at the center.

Read the full article here.

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