Exactly Where We Left It

The campers have left, the tents are coming down, and we’re left with a summer of incredible memories here at Breezy Avenue. Here at Smirkus Camp, we feel so lucky that we are the ones setting the precedent for this new era of camp. After 25 years, we found our forever home and it could not have happened without the immense support of countless volunteers, eager campers, a tireless staff, and everyone who donated time, money, and love to making Smirkus Camp everything that it is.

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We found where the rainbow ends. Photo by Amira Silverman.

Camp ended with final shows for all three programs, starting with Ensemble’s “The End of the World” show on Friday. What a fantastic show! Campers incorporated fears and mission-impossibles into the performance with birds on the wire act, clowning acts about surviving floods, a mad scientist wacky trampoline act, and a hoop-diving grand jewel heist. Then Road Show performed their wonderful half hour show, followed by the incredible Individual Acts showcase. Shoutout to Lois Chermansky who pushed past her injury and performed her entire Lyra act with the use of only one foot. She is an inspiration! 

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Lois’ Lyra performance.

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Janette Oubre performs her individual rope act. Photo by Amira Silverman.

This post features photos taken by the remarkable Session V Camper Amira Silverman. Thank you for capturing the beauty of camp this summer, Amira! You can see more of Amira’s photography on her Flickr page. 

Please keep an eye on the Smirkus Camp Flickr account, where I will be uploading the last of the photos over the next few days.

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Smirkus staff performs a song. Photo by Amira Silverman.

 

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Aerial Coach Shannon McKenna performs. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Look to the moon and the stars will shine over you. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Sunset Juggling. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Mamma Mia from the Dream Barn. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Resting on the tight wire. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Juggling perspective. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Smirkus Friendships. Photo by Amira Silverman.

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Balance. Photo by Amira Silverman.

As I reflect on the summer, I am really in awe of the world that Circus Smirkus has created. I leave this summer inspired by the many wonderful people, campers and coaches I have met. Smirkus Campers come here for an extended time every summer and they push themselves out of their comfort zones, trying new skills and developing strength, coordination, stage presence and, most importantly, lasting friendships. The fearlessness of these kids to say “YES!” to this experience, to wholly live in this magical world where the ordinary rules do not apply has inspired me immensely. As we grow older, I think it is easy to stop trying new things, to stop pushing our comfort zones, to stop improving. Smirkus Camp has brought such a sense of possibility and magic back into my life, and I am so grateful for every moment this summer.

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The tents over Standard Mountain. Photo by Amira Silverman.

Thank you for allowing me to share this summer with you, and as always, see you down the road!

“Another Smirkus summer wrapped up. Every summer, I show up to wherever the tents are, and reunite with a big piece of my heart. This year, I know exactly where I left it, and can’t wait till I see it again.”

-T Lawrence Simon, Smirkus Camp Aerial Coach and Individual Acts Director

All the best,


Hannah Stanton-Gockel

Posted in Smirkus Camp | 3 Comments

Coming Home

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

Last night, after over ten weeks and 66 shows we completed our 2015 Big Top Tour here, in Greensboro, Vermont.  Friday we had our “Joke Show” where the staff and Troupers alike get to be a part of added gags and inside jokes, it was a fun and hilarious way to kickstart our finale weekend.  

The opening of the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

The opening of the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

Clowning fun in the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

Clowning fun in the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

A piece of the bubble act from the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

A piece of the bubble act from the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

A piece of the bubble act from the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

A piece of the bubble act from the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

The jump rope act in the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

The jump rope act in the annual Circus Smirkus Joke Show for the 201 Big Top Tour.

Saturday, we started our day with final council.  At this emotional final council the Troupers gave superlatives, spoke about what Smirkus has meant to them and what a huge role the friendships made over the years have played in their lives.  

Executive Director Ed LeClair opens final counsel with a heartfelt speech.

Executive Director Ed LeClair opens final council with a heartfelt speech.

Superlatives given by senior Troupers to first year Troupers at the final counsel.

Superlatives given by senior Troupers to first year Troupers at the final council.

Second year Troupers at the 2015 final counsel.

Second year Troupers at the 2015 final council.

The 2015 first year Troupers from the Bon Appetit Big Top Tour.

The 2015 first year Troupers from the Bon Appetit Big Top Tour.

the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Troupers at the final counsel of the season.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Troupers at the final council of the season.

Yesterday after the shows, there was a parents soiree, where the Trouper parents spoke about what Smirkus has meant to them and their children, and how they wish they had a group growing up that had as much love for each other as the Smirkos have one another.  As a crew member, I can attest to the fact the message is  universal throughout the Smirkus family, Circus Smirkus will forever change you and your life.  Being a part of something this powerfully moving that brings so much joy to others is rewarding in its own light, but the fulfillment it has given each and everyone of us to go down the road together is immeasurable and inexplicable.

Artistic Director Troy Wunderle hug daughters and Troupers Emily and Ariana Wunderle at the final show of the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour.

Artistic Director Troy Wunderle hug daughters and Troupers Emily and Ariana Wunderle at the final show of the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour.

Operations Director, Judy Gaeth and Assistant Operations Director, Sara Wunderle kick off the 2015 crew procession at the final show of the 2015 Big Top Tour.

Operations Director, Judy Gaeth and Assistant Operations Director, Sara Wunderle kick off the 2015 crew procession at the final show of the 2015 Big Top Tour.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Counselors.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Counselors.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Concessions team.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Concessions team.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Tech crew.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Tech crew.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Tent Crew.

The 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour Tent Crew.

Circus Smirkus Founder Rob Mermin closes up the last show in the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour with kind words.

Circus Smirkus Founder Rob Mermin closes up the last show in the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour with kind words.

The Landa family hugs son and Trouper, Sam Landa.

The Landa family hugs son and Trouper, Sam Landa.

Ivan Jermyn and Emily Wunderle hug after the final show of the 2015 Big Top Tour.

Ivan Jermyn and Emily Wunderle hug after the final show of the 2015 Big Top Tour.

Best friends Lola Picayo and Maedya Kojis hug after the final show of the 2015 Big Top Tour.

Best friends Lola Picayo and Maedya Kojis hug after the final show of the 2015 Big Top Tour.

I want to close with something many of the Troupers expressed in their final speeches.  Smirkus is a magical place that is wonderful, kind, communal, fair and accepting of all walks and I will carry a little bit of Smirkus out into the world with me forever and will never forget the magic I experienced my summer with Smirkus.

See you down the road,

Angelia

“It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You realize what has changed is you.”

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
Posted in Big Top Tour | 4 Comments

It’s Road Show!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the Smirkus Camp Session V Road Show! Flying around Vermont during Week 2 of Session V, our “Superhero” themed Road Show performers worked incredibly hard the first week of camp! After many hours of rehearsal they launched their mini tour around Vermont on Monday!

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Road Show Superheros in action!

This year, Road Show includes 14 young Smirkus Camp performers between the ages of 13 and 17. Although there is no traveling Big Top, these Road Show performers bring their all when performing in a variety of venues across Vermont. Clowning and Performance Coach extraordinaire Suzanne Santos returns to direct The Road Show for a second year. Suzanne is an actor, clown, and educator who is known for her magician clown act “The Amazing Juan,” which she performs at Smirkus Camp for every staff talent show, much to the delight of her audience!

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The Amazing Juan!

She is backed up by a team of coaches including Acrobatics Coach, Crosby Sandoval, and Head Coach Danny Frank.

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To the rescue!

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Defying gravity!

Suzanne has four a half days to create an entire 30 minute show from scratch. Curious how such an intense performance comes together in a short amount of time, I asked her how that process begins. She told me that the Road Show campers brainstorm theme ideas on Registration Day and then everyone votes on a theme through a collaborative and democratic process. As Director, Suzanne leads by allowing campers to share their artistic vision by being an integral part of the show’s creation from the very beginning. She says, “the process is exhilarating and inspiring because it brings coaches and performers together. We’re constantly collaborating.”

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The Good Guys

Road Show, like it’s big sister program, the Big Top Tour (see Angelia Rorison’s blog for Big Top Tour updates- they’re finishing shows at Montpelier and heading back to Greensboro this week!), is a mini touring show that includes free performances at nursing homes, community centers and our big public performance on Church St in Burlington, Vermont! Today the Road Show performers did their entire show street performance style along the pedestrian only thoroughfare, Church Street Marketplace. It was such an incredible show. A few of my favorite moments from the event are below.

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The Bad Guys

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Suzanne Santos (top right) celebrates and incredible performance with her Road Show cast.

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While all campers gain valuable experience performing for audiences at Smirkus Camp, The Road Show offers an even higher level of live performance experience for campers as they travel to 12 different venues around Montpelier, Burlington, Craftsbury, Greensboro, Glover, Morrisville, Barton, and Newport. Suzanne says that being a part of Road Show artistically benefits the campers because they gain the valuable ability of being able to adjust to any situation. The audience benefits as well because performing at nursing homes and community centers exposes circus arts to a wider variety of people. One of my favorite parts after the show is when the Road Show cast is beaming from their performance and they interact with the audience, giving high-fives and answering questions about their characters and Smirkus Camp. Congrats to Road Show for all their hard work!

– Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.

E.B. White

All the best,

Hannah

Posted in Smirkus Camp

The Wheel

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

As we close up our time here in Montpelier, we see the end of the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour on the horizon. With great sadness we are beginning to tie up this season and prepare for all of our departures. Troupers and crew alike cry out, “no, I don’t want it to end,” when a word is spoken of our last few shows. It has been quite a summer, I must admit. I have learned a lot, discovered how much hard work goes into getting a circus down the road and fallen madly in love with Smirkus and the magic it brings to the towns we visit.

Sunday's rainbow in Montpelier.

Sunday’s rainbow in Montpelier.

Sunday, we brought back the old Smirkus tradition of having dinner under the Big Top.  Staff and Troupers came together and planned, decorated and executed this wonderful evening of reminiscing and friendship. Founder Rob Mermin was in attendance and, along with Tour Operations Director Judy Gaeth, offered inspirational words. Troupers Cam Zweir and Liam Gundlach contributed sentimental fun and Pie Car cook, Sarah Hartman rounded out the evening with words of encouragement. If the evening wasn’t magical enough as we entered the tent the most beautiful rainbow formed right over our big top tent.

Coach and Rigger Kerry Kaye at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Coach and Rigger Kerry Kaye at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Troupers Lola Picayo and Sandy Kelso at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Troupers Lola Picayo and Sandy Kelso at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Trouper Sam Landa and Counselor Maggie Dooley at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Trouper Sam Landa and Counselor Maggie Dooley at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Troupers and crew at the at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

Troupers and crew at the at the Big Top Dinner in Montpelier.

We also honored our senior Troupers at the end of Tuesday night’s show with a graduation ceremony.  Trouper Liam Gundlach’s school Principal attended the show and was able to hand Liam his diploma since he wasn’t able attend his graduation due to Smirkus rehearsals.  It was a touching and, of course, pie filled moment!

2015 Circus Smirkus Senior Troupers: Owen Fairchild, Alec Mcgowan, Liam Gundlach, Sawyer Oubre and Sarah Tiffin.

2015 Circus Smirkus Senior Troupers: Owen Fairchild, Alec Mcgowan, Liam Gundlach, Sawyer Oubre and Sarah Tiffin.

Trouper Liam Gundlach getting pied for graduation.

Trouper Liam Gundlach getting pied for graduation.

It was a site for events to say the least!  Monday night the Circus Smirkus Camp staff and campers attended the evening show. Tuesday evening we had our annual staff no-talent-talent-show.  Coach Eve Diamond dazzled us with a beautiful rope act, the concession girls made us laugh and Operations Director, Judy Gaeth and Assistant Operations DIrector, Sara Wunderle gave us a patriotic tribute, just to name a few.  We also had our annual staff vs Trouper kickball game, keeping tradition alive the staff won, but this year only by one point!   

Circus Smirkus Camp in the ring with the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour in Montpelier.

Circus Smirkus Camp in the ring with the 2015 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour in Montpelier.

Well, we will finish our last show here and then head down the road to our home and headquarters in Greensboro, Vermont. The crowds here have been warm and receptive, as they have always been for the past 28 years and if that wasn’t enough we had another beautiful rainbow as the final show began.

Trouper Liam Gundlach under a magical rainbow in Montpelier.

Trouper Liam Gundlach under a magical rainbow in Montpelier.

Magic in Montpelier.

Magic in Montpelier.

Backstage under a magical rainbow in Montpelier.

Backstage under a magical rainbow in Montpelier.

‘till next time,

Angelia

“Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?”

  • Jack London
Posted in Big Top Tour | 1 Comment

Individual Acts

The first week of Session V is ending with a bang! The camp took a trip to Derby Line for their annual city-wide yard sale. Road Show performed twice for the public and although some were nervous about their first public performances, they did an incredible job! A more extensive update on Road Show is to come. For now, check the Flickr page for photos from the shows!

As previously mentioned, Session V is divided into 3 sections: The Road Show, Ensemble and Individual Acts. This blog post will focus on Individual Acts, which are led by Aerial Coach T Lawrence-Simon. T is a longtime Smirkus coach, costume designer and an incredible performer.

T performing his incredible one foot hang from the Lyra.

T performing his incredible one foot hang from the Lyra.

Over the first two days of camp, Individual Act campers met to discuss the process of creating an individual act. How do campers and coaches create an individual act in only two weeks? It is no easy feat. As Head Coach Danny Frank explained to me this week, “it is an incredible challenge even for a professional to build an act in two weeks.” We have high aspirations for Session V campers but this mindset “enables us to achieve more than we would if we set realistic, simple expectations.” As Danny sees it, the role of Smirkus Camp’s Coaches and staff is “to help kids realize their vision while giving guidance in a way that supports that vision without imposing too much.”

A trapeze act in the works.

Individual Acts work to incorporate strong body language into their routines.

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A web routine takes shape.

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Practice for a duo silks act.

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An emotional Lyra routine

But how do our Coaches approach building these individual acts with such a limited amount of time available? The answer to this question can be found, in part, in the Triangle Rule. Many of you may be familiar with the triangle in a business context: No matter the situation, you can only achieve 2 of the 3 points: Fast, Inexpensive, and High Quality. If you need to create a product quickly or inexpensively, you can bet that it will not be high quality. Conversely, a product may be fast and high quality but it most certainly will not be cheap.

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At Smirkus Camp, this rule is exhibited through Level of Difficulty, Level of Preparedness, Rehearsal Time. In order to have a performance-ready, highly difficult routine, you need a LOT of time. Two weeks is a short time at Smirkus Camp, and our goal for Individual Acts is first and foremost to create a clean, entertaining and audience-ready routine. With support from T and camp’s team of specialized coaches, campers decide which skills are their strongest, which skills they have time to practice during the next two weeks, and which skills need more work before being incorporated into their act.

The Triangle Rule of Creating a Smirkus Act

The Triangle Rule of Creating a Smirkus Act

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Working on a clown routine.

Most campers come to Smirkus Camp wanting to dig deeper into their skills while some come here ready to try sometime new. Individual Acts this year include: aerial hoop, partner rope, clown, character hoop, juggling, character cigar box, and trapeze. The campers are all putting so much work into their individual acts and we cannot wait to see the final product at the end of this week.

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A clown tries to open a suitcase.

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Striking a pose during practice for the clowning hoop act.

Next Up: Road Show hits the road! Today we’re headed to Montpelier for a couple of performances. Hup, Hey!

– It’s mainly about working hard and proving to people you’re serious about it, and stretching yourself and learning. The mistake a lot of actors make, particularly young ones, is allowing themselves to feel that they’re the finished articles, the bee’s knees, and it’s not true.

Daniel Radcliffe

All the best,

Hannah

Posted in Smirkus Camp

Daring

Dear Smirkus Family and Friends,

Yesterday, we closed up our stay in Maine and hit the road to head home to Vermont, but not without reminiscing on the many memories made. First, on our jump day, we visited the intensive care unit at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Hospital in Portland, Maine. Seventeen of our Troupers performed snippets of our 2015 Big Top Tour and were met by smiles and applause. This was a touching moment that is among one of the favorites on tour.

Smirkos performing at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

Smirkos performing at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

Smirkos performing at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

Smirkos performing at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

Smirkos performing at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

Smirkos performing at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

We also had a very special guest spend the day with us on our first show day, Kinsey Carson!  Kinsey is part of the Make-A-Wish foundation and became a Smirko for the day!  She laughed, spent time with the Troupers and enjoyed the show with her mother and her aunt.  We were so lucky to have her with us, she was an inspiration and joy. A Maine native, Kinsey also attended the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine. Which also was attended by hometown hero Trouper, Sarah Norden.

Make-A-Wish kid, Kinsey Carson being a Smirko for the day at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

Make-A-Wish kid, Kinsey Carson being a Smirko for the day at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

Make-A-Wish kid, Kinsey Carson clowning around with Troy Wunderle at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

Make-A-Wish kid, Kinsey Carson clowning around with Troy Wunderle at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

Make-A-Wish kid, Kinsey Carson being a Smirko for the day at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

Make-A-Wish kid, Kinsey Carson being a Smirko for the day at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, Maine.

Next, in Kennebunkport we spent a glorious two days at the Rocking Horse Stables.  We have been coming to these beautiful grounds for 10 years and it is a favorite among the crew, especially, our Operations Director, Judy Gaeth.

Smirkus at the Rocking Horse Stables in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Smirkus at the Rocking Horse Stables in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Next up, Montpelier where we have seven shows at the Montpelier High School grounds starting Sunday, August 9 at 4 pm, Monday – Wednesday 2 pm and 7 pm. Then home to Smirkus Headquarters in Greensboro, Vt., where we will close out the 2015 Big Top Tour.

Sunset in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Sunset in Kennebunkport, Maine.

‘till next time,

Angelia

“The tops of mountains are among the unfinished parts of the globe, whither it is a slight insult to the gods to climb and pry into their secrets, and try their effect on our humanity. Only daring and insolent men, perchance, go there.”

― Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

Posted in Big Top Tour

A Daring Adventure

Where has the summer gone?! Session IV ended last week with the incredible final show “Monsters Under the Bed.” Campers were creepy, they were scary, they embodied monsters, ghouls, and ghosts in every act, from Spanish web to clowning to tightwire! It is so amazing to see the hard work these campers put into creating such a wonderful final show each session. We can’t wait to see you next year, Session IV!

Most of the Smirkus Camp staff have been on campus since late May (some even before that!) working hard to get this new camp ready. Remember the Work Party Weekend, when a hundred volunteers came to help make our beautiful camp ready for the campers?

That weekend simultaneously feels a million miles away and like it was yesterday because every Smirkus Camp session has a lifetime crammed into it, that’s just how much magic is poured into every single moment of the day here.

Each session here has been so special, as new campers fill our dorms, decorate the dining hall with prayer flags, play Tagnificence in Smirkus Camp’s fields and hang upside down in Mamma Mia, we are creating memories that will be the camp’s foundation for decades to come. In another 25 years we will all think back to that first summer on Breezy Avenue and remember those who made it so special.

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All made by our campers, inspirational prayer flags decorate our new dining hall: “You don’t to be great to start but you have to start to be great.”

With these nostalgic thoughts we are so excited to dive right into Session V! Session V has a unique structure because the campers are divided into 3 groups: Ensemble, Individual Acts, and the Road Show. Ensemble campers work together with Smirkus Veteran Acro Coach and Director Crosby Sandoval to create an hour long circus show. Individual Acts are lead by long-time Smirkus Aerial Coach T Lawrence-Simon who will help campers create a 3 minute long act in the skill of their choice. The Road Show is the mini-version of our sister program The Big Top Tour! Fourteen campers create a half hour show during Week 1 and during Week 2 this show will go on an 18 stop run through Montpelier, Burlington, Morrisville, Glover, Newport, Northfield, Lyndonville, East Craftsbury, and, of course, Greensboro! This Road Show is directed by the marvelous Clowning Coach Suzanne.

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Get-to-know-you games before breaking into groups to discuss Individual, Road Show and Ensemble Acts!

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Hup, Hey!

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Welcome Session V Campers!

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Put your thinking caps on, Smirkus Campers, it’s time to make Session V amazing!

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There is so much to be excited about this session and so many projects happening simultaneously. Session V campers arrived on Sunday and dove right in, almost  immediately meeting with their 3 groups to discuss details and plan performance themes. Everyone at Smirkus Camp is ready to embrace these magical last two weeks of camp and propel these campers to a new level of performing and training.

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The Blue Moon over Smirkus Camp last night!

As always, additional photos are uploaded daily onto the Flickr account. Be sure to check there for even more insight into camp!

All the best,

Hannah

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

-Helen Keller

Posted in Smirkus Camp | Tagged ,