Integrating the circus into the community

BRATTLEBORO — Casey Haynes twirled his juggling sticks in the entrance of the Latchis Theatre on Saturday. He wore his New England Center for Circus Arts T-shirt and talked to guests as they passed him by.

"Did you know there's a circus school right here in Brattleboro?" he asked.

Many guests, he said, did not.

Haynes, who works in NECCA'S ProTrack program and general operations, was only one of the performances at the Latchis during Circus Saturday, an effort from NECCA to raise the school's profile in the community through environmental performances.

A juggler, acrobats and a mime took over the Latchis Theatre to celebrate a new movie about circus arts. "The Greatest Showman" is a rags-to-riches story inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, the founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Haynes wanted to connect the movie locally to NECCA.

"It's a great moment of synchronicity," he said.

He's seen the movie and he thought some of the circus themes still resonated today.

"They've done an interesting job of connecting some of the contemporary circus arts into the film," he said. Mostly he thought the movie captured the excitement surrounding circus and the themes of belonging and magic.

Circus Saturday was the first event organized by Haynes.

"NECCA has been pretty prolific in terms of outreach events," he said. This event, however, was more informal. Haynes wants to try more circus flash-mob events, where circus is more seamlessly integrated into the everyday.

"In some ways, circus can be a little intimidating," Haynes said. He wants to show the community that NECCA's performers are just everyday folks like them.

Haynes said, while raising NECCA's profile in the community was key, he also put on the event for fun.

"It's cold out and people are taking the time to come out and see a movie, and we just want to inject a little bit of extra fun," he said.

Fun they did inject, from Haynes' greeting to Marysia Walcerz's joyful mime twirling through and around a hoop.

Once the moviegoers were cleared out, Walcerz was able to speak with the Reformer. She's in her first year with the ProTrack program and said she performed because Haynes asked.

"Casey's the best and he could ask me to do pretty much anything and I'd say yes," she said. "And I love 'ambienting' and working crowds and being silly."

Audiences especially enjoyed an act put on by three teenagers. Serafina Walker, 15, and Ora Linn, 14, coordinated their acrobatics while their friend Chase Levy, 17, juggled in between them.

Then suddenly all three were doing acrobatics. Walker was lifted onto Levy's shoulders and Linn wrapped her self around his waist facing outwards to the audience.

The teenagers agreed to perform because they wanted the practice and were interested in the movie.

"I love performing for people. Any opportunity I get, I will take it," Walker said. She particularly enjoyed performing so close to the audience because it allowed her to better hear their reactions.

Linn agreed.

"Every opportunity to perform is an opportunity to learn," she said.

Circus Saturday presented more of a learning opportunity for her because she wasn't performing acts. She was reading the environment with Walker and Levy and responding accordingly.

Levy came because he was interested in Barnum's story.

"I really liked this idea of doing a circus thing," in conjunction with the story, he said.

While Levy hadn't seen the film yet, both Walker and Linn had and they raved about it.

"It really captured how much of a family circus is," Linn said.

NECCA will be at the Latchis again on March 3 and 4 for the seventh annual Circus Spectacular. "The Greatest Showman" will be playing at the Latchis until Thursday. Check for showtimes.

Harmony Birch can be reached at, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.


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