Keene Sentinel – NECCA’s Winter Circus Show

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

Puppetry speaks truth to power, it is full of surprises, it is silly and sublime

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

BRATTLEBORO — New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) just keeps growing, it seems, stretching its sinews to embrace an expanding universe of dramatic and kinesthetic arts.

This Sunday, Aug. 20, NECCA hosts North Star Puppets to present Hot Jam Puppet Slam Festival, an event of puppetry, music, theater, crafts, and food.

From 4 to 7 p.m. under the circus tent, a family-friendly festival will feature an all-ages puppet show, silkscreening, live music, and a craft workshop.

Festivalgoers will hear singer-songwriters Stephen Peter Rodgers, Ponybird, and Sean O’Reilly, and see Wandering Theatre’s festival-style puppets, Big Chicken’s large parade puppet, and Dragon Treasure shadow puppets by Nappy’s Puppets. Cloudgaze will also perform immersive theater.

At 7 p.m., festival creators Phoenix Leigh and Aaron Lathrop (North Star Puppets) will offer and host the Hot Jam Puppet Slam, an adult-oriented variety show of 12 short acts by 11 puppeteers from throughout New England and beyond.

“Puppet slams are an underground phenomenon,” Leigh explains.

According to, such an event is “an evening of curated short-form puppetry acts intended for adult audiences.”

Having settled in Brattleboro in 2022, Leigh – the reception manager at NECCA – and Lathrop first met at the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Leigh, a puppeteer for nearly 20 years, is a writer, creator, director, and producer who’s had their hand in a host of puppet slams, variety shows, festivals, and workshops.

Lathrop, an actor by training, began in puppetry in 2008 and has been working with, and married to, Leigh since then. Together they’ve toured the United States performing in family shows and late-night puppet slams.

They’ve puppeteered for The Jim Henson Company, Tears of Joy Theatre, Enchantment Theatre Company, and Dragon Con, and they co-produced Puppet-Delphia Fringe Slam in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Resident puppeteers for the Philadelphia Folk Festival since 2016, they’re the balloon handlers in New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Lathrop’s act – “This Too, Too Solid Flesh,” directed by Sarah Borne and developed as part of the O’Neill Center National Puppetry Conference – will be in the lineup while Leigh invites attendees to “experience what’s possible when puppetry is presented with its full scope,” according to a media release.

“Prepare to be dazzled, to laugh, to cry, to ask: How did they do that?” Leigh and Lathrop promise.

Also on the program, the first of its kind at NECCA, the 7 p.m. show in the school’s Trapezium features acts that are, Leigh explains, “fun [and] participatory – small and intimate to meaningful to fast and silly to experimental.”

Among them will be Theatre Adventure of Brattleboro; marionettes by Cripps Creations of Northfield, Massachusetts; toy theater by Eva Cranky Pantz Productions of Fort Greene, New York; Break-Fast Puppets from Storrs, Connecticut; toy theater with Massachusetts’ Christine Dempsey; Playdoh Puppet Productions from New Orleans; projections, shadow puppetry, and movement by Theatre Immediate of western Connecticut; body and rod puppets by OompaPossum Puppets of Western Connecticut; marionettes by Frechettist Marionettist of Burlington; and clowning/mixed styles puppetry with Joel Baker of Brattleboro.

“Puppetry is alive and vital today,” Leigh adds. “It’s getting harder to make a living in today’s world of performing arts, but it’s accessible to pick up puppets and create a show.”

Furthermore, “there are so many styles of puppetry, from cardboard to intricate marionettes, and they’re all effective in their own way,” they add.

“Puppetry is one of humanity’s oldest art forms,” Leigh continues. “It will continue to survive no matter what. Puppetry speaks truth to power, it is full of surprises, it is silly and sublime. There is a lot to be said for gathering together in one place to laugh, cry, think, and be entertained.”

“New England Center for Circus Arts is proud to host the first Hot Jam Puppet Slam,” says NECCA’s producing director, Serenity Smith Forchion, the school’s co-founder.

“This production supports NECCA’s goal to be a vital resource for the local community and beyond,” she continues. “We will continue to expand our ability to offer the community outstanding professional performances, attract visiting guest artists and instructors from around the world, provide a high level of training for students who aspire to be professionals, and facilitate greater access and programming to area schools and youth organizations.”


Vermont Flood Relief

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


Resource: Scholarship Opportunities

Check out these scholarship opportunities here!

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.