The Spirit of Session V

There’s a busy week at camp and then there’s session V busy!  Everyone at camp has been putting in the sweat and love required to make not one but THREE independent shows that culminate into the Session V experience. Our Roadshow people have been hitting the road over the past week and visiting everything from nursing homes, to children’s centers, to Church Street in Burlington. Our campers have brought the joy and the magic of circus performance to so many adoring people in the community.

Another subsection of the session is the Individual acts.  A handful of campers take one on one time with their mentors to create a short solo performance in their chosen discipline.  They also take some time to come together as a group to weave together a show with group numbers to boot!

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And finally we have our Ensemble track campers.  These experienced campers choose a theme, create acts and put together a one-of-a-kind show.  They combine their excellent skills and, with the leadership of their coaches, create some amazing collaborative acts.

On the last night of every session, we finish the week in the tent with all the campers gathered together in a “happy circle of happiness.” So named because the outpouring of gratefulness for the Smirkus Camp experience move many to tears of joy.  This week, our campers were grateful for the acceptance they find here at camp, and how they can all be who they really are at camp.  It was inspiring to hear how many campers didn’t want to leave camp because they feel truly at home here.  It’s hard to put into words the atmosphere and the spirit of this session, but suffice it to say that love for each other and for the magic of circus is as abundant as air.

 

With you in Spirit,

-Aaron

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Down the Road

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

We did it everyone! We entertained 66 audiences in 15 towns over 7 weeks. The Troupers performed their last shows in Greensboro in front of sold out crowds including our annual Joke Show on Friday. The Joke show is a tradition that gives the Troupers a chance to have some goofy moments in the ring while still putting on a great show for the folks that came. My personal favorite was the staff run-through during the club juggling act which naturally included three dogs and a faux marriage proposal.

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The Troupers left with their families yesterday morning after a prolonged and tearful farewell. It’s hard to say goodbye to people that you’ve spent nearly every day of the last 10 weeks with, but it’s made easier knowing that they’re going on to do great things. We had 7 seniors this year. They all have diverse interests, with some who will go on to continue studying circus or traditional studies.

I’m not sure what else do say. The tour experience is transformative. I’ve probably worked harder than I ever have before and made true friendships among my coworkers and the Troupers. I will miss them but there is a saying around here; “in the circus, we never say goodbye, we say, see you down the road.”

Take care,

Jane

Roads go ever ever on 

Under cloud and under star,

Yet feet that wandering have gone

Turn at last to home afar.

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

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Three Ringed Circus Camp

We have arrived at our last session of camp, and it is a real tour de force for everyone. From the leadership team who organized and scheduled the three rings of session five: Ensemble, Individual Acts, and Roadshow, to the coaches, who serve as teachers and directors these weeks creating three unique shows. Not to mention the counselors who continue to guide the campers with their leadership and their dynamite personalities and to the campers themselves, all of whom have worked extraordinarily hard to put their acts together in Session V, and it shows!

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Speaking of tour de force, Smirkus Camp saw the Big Top Tour in Montpelier this week and had a blast. At the end of the show, Artistic Director Troy Wunderle addressed the crowd to say that a majority of this year’s Troupers started out at camp. Many of the 2016 Troupers, including Jeannette Oubre, Hannah Grove, Jack Miron, Chase Levy, and Graham Reicher, were Session V campers last year. The campers got to see many of their friends perform in the Big Top Tour and enjoyed reuniting with them after the show. Similarly, while returning to Greensboro for the end of their run, the Troupers stopped by and visited camp too.

Even with the incredible level of skill everywhere at camp this session many campers are still here primarily for the camp experience. 17 year old Erika Wentz has been coming to Smirkus Camp for years and she says she comes to camp for the friends and the environment of Smirkus. And there is is plenty of camp culture to go around. From the songs that campers sing in strengthening, to the kickball games filled with base-moving silliness and sidesplitting “distraction” antics, Session V works hard and plays hard.

Camp seems to have the magical ability to meet the needs of all the campers, from those who come to build the skill to become Tour Troupers and professional performers; to those who return year after year to reconnect with their camp friends and live in the magic of Smirkus, and everyone inbetween. There is a place in the many rings of camp, and Smirkus at large, for everyone to succeed and grow. Which, I think, is the reason we all come back year after year.

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Your ring hopping blogger,

-Aaron

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Back Home in Greensboro

Dear Smirkus Friends and Family,

What can I say folks? After seven weeks on the road it is good to be back home in Greensboro, Vermont. Traveling and working with a circus made this a summer like none other I’ve ever had. It’s hard work, odd and long hours, but no other job I’ve had has allowed me such a connection with my coworkers and of course the Troupers. Things are slowing down, but we’re by no means done yet!

We spent the first part of this week in Montpelier, Vermont. Montpelier is near and dear to Smirkus as we’ve been going there nearly since our founding. It’s also the home of our founder, Rob Mermin. It is evident that Montpelier feels the same way about us because they welcomed the Troupers with a parade sponsored by the local community vitality nonprofit, Montpelier Alive!

State Lawn

before parade

A bit of acro juggling warmup before the parade.

Staff and their dogs were also welcome to join in the fun. I had a great time teaching the basics of juggling to some very eager students on the State House lawn until the Troupers showed us how it was really done.

Later we had a completely improvised pie fight led by our very own Artistic Director and Boss Clown, Troy Wunderle.

We also had our annual Staff vs. Trouper kickball game. Staff emerged victorious but the Troupers put up a good fight and were good sports about it.

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We have three more shows to go including our infamous Joke Show Friday evening. Tickets are still available but they are going fast. We’re not ready to say goodbye for the summer yet!

Take care,

Jane

 

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Winding down in Newbury

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

We’ve been zipping through sites these last few days. We swung through a new site in Milford, NH at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club and then an old beauty in Freeport, ME at the Maine Coast Waldorf School.

The Troupers visited the Barbara Bush Children’s hospital in Freeport and we had Addy from Make a Wish come to the show with her family. She was given a tour backstage before the show and got a chance to bow onstage with her sister, Cassidy.

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Addy (left) with Cassidy (right).

We’re currently setting up in Newbury, MA, our last stop before we’re back in Vermont. This is a new site where our neighbors are the historic Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm and some of its animal inhabitants include a 24-year-old horse and an 800 pound pig named Big Dave.

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We spent the morning of our first shows here in Newbury celebrating the opening of the Olympic Games with our own games. If you know anything about Trouper life on tour, it’s that Troupers have a few responsibilities on tour when in comes to set up. One of them is setting up our rainbow-colored pads on the bleacher seats. Today we had a competition to see which section could set their’s up the fastest and determine which sections were missing and retrieve them from two Troupers in the ring. It was chaos but eventually Section 3 emerged victorious and won a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Our snapchat caught all the fun.

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That’s all I have for now. Tour is winding down to its last week so be sure to stay tuned for updates, we head back to our home state of Vermont next!

Take care,

Jane

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Camp Hits the Road!

Traveling is one of the most universal elements of circus life and this week at camp we followed in that time honored tradition!  Our travels began on Saturday when we boarded buses and headed over to Hosmer Point (HP), a camp run through the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in neighboring Craftsbury, VT.  HP is a more typical outdoor summer camp so they were thrilled to learn some circus-y things from our campers. In reciprocal we enjoyed one of HP’s favorite camp games, a tag type game with herbivores, carnivores, humans and others as the cast of characters.  After the game we enjoyed a beach-side dinner and a fire with s’mores to finish the night.  We are so excited to start what will hopefully be a long standing tradition of community building with neighboring camps in the Northeast Kingdom.

Our roadshow campers spent the first week of camp working on a show that displays their ground-based skills, like juggling clowning, and acrobatics.  The 2016 Jr. Roadshow theme was the 70’s with hippies, dancers, and political business-people relevant to the time period.  And like all things Smirkus, Jr. Roadshow has some amazing talent at its core.  The roadshow is a community outreach program, so most of the destinations are nursing homes, childcare facilities and public parks.  Suzanne Santos, the director of Jr. Roadshow (and Session V Roadshow) says the roadshow is all about the performers making a connection with the audience. But it is also a gateway to getting much needed experience performing in front of crowds and cameras, a benefit unique to Smirkus, setting it apart from other circus camps. These skills, like many that the campers learn at camp, is applicable not only their achieving their circus goals, but to their personal lives as well.

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As we near the end of Session IV and the campers begin to look down the road to the end of their summer at Smirkus Camp, they will all go home more confident, empowered, and ready to face the road ahead of them with friends for life and magical memories.

Your blogger for the road,

-Aaron

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Inspiration Station

Session IV is about half way through and I am feeling very inspired.  Our campers this week are really challenging themselves and working to improve their already impressive repertoire of skills.  Not only are we running our usual camp programs this week but we also are rehearsing for Jr. Roadshow, a small ensemble of campers that will travel with a show they have created this week at camp around the local community. Jr. Roadshow will even perform on the Statehouse Lawn in Montpelier on Monday, August 1st. If you’re in the city, bring your lunch and stop by at noon to watch the show! Like always these campers come for the circus but stay for the fun, and this session plays just as hard as they work.

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Another huge inspiration we had this week was a special visit from Circus Zambia.  Circus Zambia is a Social Circus from Zambia, Africa and they hope to improve the lives of their impoverished community though the positive force of learning circus arts.  They know, like our campers, that learning circus skills takes a lot of discipline and determination, both of which are skills that easily transfer out of the ring.  On top of that profound mission, the artists of Circus Zambia were completely electric when they gave us a short performance in Mamma Mia. The campers really enjoyed meeting the troupe afterward when they joined us for lunch and our camp group photo!

To learn more about Circus Zambia and their mission, please visit their GoFundMe page and follow their travels on Facebook.

For most of these campers coming to Smirkus has become a constant in their summer routine, and camp continues to inspire them to be the best artists they can be and imbue them with skills and inspiration they will hold onto long after they leave Breezy Ave.

 

With a gleam in my eye,

-Aaron

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