This article was originally posted on The Keene Sentinel. Read the full article here.
Are the natural and artificial worlds somehow connected? This is the question posed (and possibly answered) through circus in NECCA’s upcoming show.
The New England Center for Circus Arts will present “Of Myth and Mushrooms,” its Winter Circus performance, this Friday Dec. 15, through Sunday, Dec. 17 at its downtown Brattleboro space.
Since 2007, New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) has emerged as the premiere circus arts training facility in the nation.
The Winter Circus, formerly known as the Flying Nut, is the largest show NECCA produces. It features youth and adult students from recreational classes alongside aspiring professionals in the three-year ProTrack program. This year’s show features more than 80 performers in four shows.
“Most of the other shows are program-specific,” said NECCA’s artistic director and co-founder, Serenity Smith Forchion, “This once-a-year show combines all the programs.”
The mission of NECCA is to provide high-quality circus arts training for students and artists while facilitating greater access and programming to everyone. As a non-profit organization, NECCA works to ensure financial and inclusive access to serve students of all ages and abilities, offering recreational circus classes, pre-professional and professional programs and workshops.
Winter Circus director Chelsea Barrett took a “tree dancing” workshop with Forchion, during which she talked with students about how trees, plants and fungi are interconnected through mycorrhizal networks.
“The concept [of the winter show] is that interconnectedness balanced against the world of AI, which takes over the world,” said Forchion.
The main character’s journey starts in a robotic office environment, Forchion explained, with fluorescent lights.
“The main character says ‘this is not for me’ and runs away to the forest,” she said, and meets trapeze bears, bugs that do a Russian bar and hoop diving act and mushrooms performing in aerial slings. Performing the hoop diving act is a circus artist from Cirque du Soleil as part of an exchange program with NECCA.
One of the pieces of music in the show was created using a synthesizer, while the performers, dressed as mushrooms and “synthesizer people”, depict the connectedness between nature and technology. “[Synthesizers and mushrooms] can create music through a chemical and electronic interaction,” she said.
NECCA has worked, rehearsed and performed in a custom-built trapezium since 2017, but one thing missing has been seating that gives audiences a raised view of action on the floor. Thanks to a longstanding relationship between the New England Youth Theater (NEYT) and NECCA, the circus will have portable risers for this performance that will provide 50 more seats.
“The sight lines [for performances] were difficult,” said Forchion. “[The risers] provide a wonderful opportunity to improve and expand.”
These risers are the latest of numerous facility upgrades NECCA has made this year to enhance the audience experience along with stage lighting, sound system, remote control shades for black out and wing curtains for a proscenium view.
The next session of classes at NECCA, which will begin Jan. 3, includes a new harness dancing class that combines circus and dance.
“It allows you to flip and fly with less impact than when on the ground,” said Forchion.
Another new class starting up next year is Silver Circus.
“We’re trying to open up opportunities for the non-typical circus demographic,” she said. “There are studies that show circus can have a lot of benefits for older bodies. It can be scaled to be lower-impact.” Silver Circus students will be part of next year’s winter show.
The New England Center for Circus Arts Winter Circus Show, “Of Myth and Mushrooms,” will be held this Friday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 16, at 3 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m. at the NECCA Trapezium, 10 Town Crier Drive, Brattleboro. Tickets to the family-friendly Winter Circus are $15-$35 and are available at www.circusschool.org.