photo of a ProTrack Program student doing a front walkover in acrobatics class

Windham County Promotes ‘Vital’ Development Projects

BRATTLEBORO – Economic development meetings typically don’t include talk of trapeze artists.

But the New England Center for Circus Arts’ high-flying expansion plan was a big part of the buzz here Monday morning at the announcement of 14 high-priority economic projects for Windham County.

The ‘vital projects’ announcement comes with no funding attached; rather, it’s part of an update of the region’s federally approved comprehensive economic development strategy. Nevertheless, officials place a lot of emphasis on this year’s list, in part because it shows the variety of projects happening in a county that is losing one of its biggest employers, Vermont Yankee.

The circus center’s expansion into a new, centralized headquarters is just one example of that growth. And administrators brought good news: A ground-breaking for the $2.5 million project could happen this spring.

“We are creating something that is going to be unique in the United States, and we hope to be the national center for circus arts,” said Elsie Smith, the center’s artistic director and co-founder.

The area’s comprehensive economic development strategy, also known as the CEDS, is a project of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, also known as SeVEDS. While it’s easy to get lost in the acronyms, officials say the strategic plan bestows eligibility for some federal funding programs.

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photo of NECCA's founders performing a duet on trapeze

NECCA Sisters Fuse Business Savvy, Circus Thrills

Vermont Arts Living

By Jon Potter
Photos by Jeffrey M. Lewis

Balance is a core value at a school whose curriculum boasts Trapeze, Teeterboard, and Acrobatics, and whose students are often found 10 feet off the ground, swinging from bars, beams, and fabrics.

But for Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion, identical twins and co-founders of the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, commitment to balance is as important to business plans as it is to circus acts. And that, as a famous New Englander once said, has made all the difference.

No strangers to the limelight, Elsie and Serenity spent four years touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco and also performed with Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, Circus of the Kids, the New Pickle Circus, Pilobolus, and more, winning awards in China and Spain for their spinning duo trapeze act and winning fans and accolades everywhere else.

And they have also earned respect and admiration for their business savvy. Quite frankly, it’s a hard choice as to which type of praise means more.

“I think it depends on the day and the person,” says Elsie, who serves as artistic director of NECCA, which she and her sister established in 2007 and which has grown, appropriately enough, by leaps and bounds. Blossoming since the days of that initial class, NECCA this year will educate 6,000 students aged 18 months to more than 80 years. Their experience ranges from raw beginner to seasoned circus professional revealing a world of wonder in between.

More at Vermont Arts Living

photo of a high school student performing a juggling routine

Circus Arts: NECCA, Smirkus Circus Continue their Collaboration

Brattleboro Reformer

Circus Smirkus and the New England Center for Circus Arts have so much in common that they teamed up on the Austine Campus on Jan. 16 and 17 to host auditions for Circus Smirkus’ 2016 season.

According to a press release from Circus Smirkus, the reason it held auditions in Brattleboro was because of the “crumbling infrastructure” of its venue, Memorial Auditorium, in Burlington.

Elsie Smith, who founded NECCA with her sister, Serenity Smith Forchion, said this is the second year in a row that auditions have been held in Brattleboro. “We have a gym on the Austine Campus that is already decked out as a circus facility,” she said, so minimal setup is required. “Instead of having to prepare and do rigging, it only took us about three hours to get ready.”

Smith said Circus Smirkus and NECCA consider themselves “sister” organizations. “Cirus Smirkus has summer touring programs and overnight summer camps and we have day camps in the summer. While we don’t have a touring company, we train many of their participants during the year.”

More at Brattleboro Reformer

photo of Chloe Wailer performing a split at NECCA's Circus Spectacular in brattleboro vermont

Brattleboro to Latvia: Performer and NECCA Teacher Chloe Walier to Compete

Brattleboro Reformer

Walier is heading to Latvia to perform her fixed trapeze act in a competition and if the ground is hard enough, she’ll be able to show off her bottle walking skills. She said she has never been that far east.

“I’m almost going to Russia. It’s going to be so cold,” Walier laughed. “I’m super excited and open to whatever happens. I’m ready for the adventure.”

More at Brattleboro Reformer

photo of the founders of NECCA sitting on a trapeze outside in the summertime

Entrepreneurs of Circus: Elsie Smith & Serenity Smith Forchion

Circus Now

Elsie Smith & Serenity Smith Forchion share the spotlight in this Circus Now feature in the Women & Circus series “Entrepreneurs of Circus”.

More at Circus Now

NECCA coach helping a family of three walk across a balancing pipe

Two Free Hours: A featured story on the Vermont Arts Council blog regarding the Circus for Survivors workshops

Vermont Arts Council

“The circus is a place where marginalized individuals were valued for their uniqueness and that outsider culture proves to be powerful for cancer survivors. At times cancer can make one feel like an outsider—even after treatment ends, the survivor may be disease-free but not free of disease. Being incorporated into that role of a circus person, even if just for the afternoon, can be transformative. Through Circus for Survivors, the participants experience a reprieve from cancer, a reconnection to the body, a space to play and develop self-efficacy.”

Full Article HERE

photo of a NECCA coach speaking with several young students

Helping Home-Schooled Kids Get Creative

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – Home-schooled students will often partake in extracurricular activities through local organizations. But thanks to a Brattleboro-based home schooling program, families can now access art classes for less.

Read More Here

photo of Chloe Wailer performing at the circus spectacular

Graduates from NECCA Under Really Big Tent


Brattleboro Reformer

By Cicely M. Eastman

NECCA graduates head to Latvia for competition in an international circus festival

Graduates from NECCA under Really Big Tent

the commons online logo

The Multiplier Effect

The Commons

By Joyce Marcel

For years, a bursting-at-the-seams creativity has made Brattleboro and Windham County an exciting place to live and work. And, finally, all indications are pointing to a true creative economy growing here.

Full Article HERE

photo of a woman training a flexibility skill on handbalancing canes

Running Away To The Circus School

Valley Advocate

“A moment after the woman at the reception desk hollers up to announce my arrival, Elsie Smith descends the office’s spiral staircase and welcomes me to the New England Center for Circus Arts. Handing over a few brochures, she highlights various events at their Circus Workshop Weekend, Aug.8-10. Classes offered include Intro to Partner Acrobatics 101, Somatics for Athletes, Flying Trapeze Intensive, Chinese Pole, and Aerial Fabric: Using Height. A performance called a Bootcamp Show will be staged at the Main Studio here at the Cotton Mill Studio in Brattleboro. A second show by visiting circus company FAQ Troupe can be see…”

Read More Here