Locals get their circus on at big top extravaganza


All Photos by Lynn Monty

Olivia Santos, 8, of Charlotte balanced a plate on a stick while performing a back bend, and her pal Elizabeth Nostrand, also 8 and from Charlotte, perfected her cartwheel back stage before their big performance together.

Santos and Nostrand, joined by more than a dozen other novice performers, followed the lead of circus teacher, Joan White-Hansen at the new Circus Smirkus workshop performance in the Round Barn at Shelburne Museum’s Circus-palooza on July 19.

When she’s not teaching circus tricks for Circus Smirkus, White-Hansen is an enrichment, arts, and drama teacher at Castleton Elementary School. Circus Smirkus is an international youth circus founded in Vermont in 1987.

Outside, Shelburne Museum’s annual circus-themed extravaganza included aerial acts, carnival games, live music and performances. Three big top shows featured former Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Brother’s aerialists, jugglers, stilt walkers, and new magic from Wunderle’s Big Top Adventures.

Eddie Vega and Heidi Schnackenberg brought their son Will Vega, 8, to Circus-palooza. They come from their home in Plattsburg every year for the event. “It’s a hop over the pond for us,” Schnackenberg said. “We always come to Shelburne Museum for Circus-palooza. You can’t beat it.”

Will Vega’s main focus in the Circus Smirkus morning workshop was juggling. He also liked feather balancing and his teacher Joan White-Hansen.

White-Hansen, of Charlotte, said her one-day special event is new to Circus-palooza. “I introduce the kids to as many circus skills as possible,” she said. “I normally go into schools for five to ten days at a time to teach each skill.”

White-Hansen is a resident artist with Circus Smirkus. She teaches circus performing in elementary school gym classes and at summer camps throughout the year. “My passion for this comes from hearing, ‘I got it!’ after our first set of skills,” she said. “When I hear those words, that’s what it’s about for me.”

Circus performing is about building self-esteem and self-confidence, White-Hansen said. “For me it’s like spreading joy.”

Circus Smirkus Executive Director Ed LeClair of Charlotte said Shelburne Museum has an interesting and unique view on circus history. “They educate visitors about the historical world of circus, and we are all about teaching children how to participate, so this was an obvious partnership,” he said. “My hope is it will continue for some time.”

LeClair said additional Circus Smirkus exhibits will be planned over time at the museum. “This workshop was the first step,” he said. “It’s a new and developing partnership, so stay tuned.”

For more information visit smirkus.org.

Contact Lynn Monty at 985-3091 or Lynn@WindRidgePublishing.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VermontSongbird.


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