What I’ve learned in my first week at Smirkus is that the circus is a place to grow. For coaches, staff, and troupers, spending ten weeks away from home is a chance to meet new people, explore new places, and learn new things- circus skills, things about the world, but most importantly things about themselves. Towards the end of hand balances class, I overheard one trouper remark to another how he feels he’s learned and grown so much through his four summers with Smirkus.
What’s unique about the environment here extends beyond the location (the mountainous scenery extends far beyond what I could hope to see, tricking me for a minute into thinking the whole world is like this) or the skills that the troupers bring to the table (though they are phenomenal- it’s rare to see a group of teenagers who are so talented)- rather what most stands out to me here is the supportive and encouraging coaching style, and how passionate and determined the performers are. When guiding troupers on handstand presses and push-ups, coach Sellam encouraged those who were challenged by the exercise by telling them to say “I can!” instead of “I can’t!” Whatever challenges may come up in training, the troupers never fail to face them with a smile, a laugh, and maybe a clown nose.
The third day of training began with casting, where the troupers learned what acts they’d be in for the show. Perhaps it’s the Vermont air or perhaps it’s the rain (we’re all waiting for the sun to come out!), but something about this excitement sparked the creativity in everyone. From coming up with clown gags to new partner work on the high wire to trying a different move on an aerial apparatus, it was exciting to see the troupers work with their coaches to build upon the skills they have to create something new. It’s amazing to see how much they’ve learned in their first three days, and I can’t wait to see how the final show comes together!
Time seems to pass at a very different pace here at Smirkus HQ- on the one hand everyone has settled in and it feels like we’ve all been here forever, but on the other hand time’s flown by so fast it feels like we just got here. I used today to soak it all in, because so much of this experience is new to me, as I’ve never worked with a circus before. I’m still adjusting to the circus lifestyle, though perhaps the beauty of the circus is that it’s something you never fully get used to- it’s all about new things and new experiences as a place to learn and a place to grow and a place to entertain.