NECCA students present ‘Out of the Ordinary’
By JON POTTER / Reformer Staff
Thursday May 10, 2012
BRATTLEBORO -- Lauren Breunig didn’t have to run away from home to join the circus.
In fact, she ran back home to join the circus.
The Brattleboro native has spent the last nine months back in her hometown as one of a lucky handful of students in New England Center for Circus Arts’ professional track program.
She and the 17 other students in the program will be graduating this month, but before they do, they’re going to show you what they’ve learned.
Beginning Saturday and running through May 19, the NECCA professional track students will present "From Out of the Ordinary: Exceptional Circus. Exceptional Athletes," a performance which features acrobatics, aerial fabric acts, tumbling, tight wire, German wheel, juggling, dance, theater and more.
"I’m excited," said Breunig. "The show is going to be really, really good."
Performances this year will be held at Greenhoe Theater at Landmark College in Putney, a bold move for NECCA, which used to hold these performances in its Cotton Mill training studio but made the move to take advantage of better lighting, higher ceilings and more seats.
Of course, bold moves are the essence of life at NECCA. For the last nine months, the students have been training intensively, building skills, honing those skills into marketable acts and preparing to take their careers to the next level.
The Pro Track class of 2012 has students from 18 to their mid-30s and includes a professional dancer, a recent winner of the International Juggling Association competition, a student from an Israeli circus school and a competitive gymnast.
And Breunig, who took a different route to come back home and join the circus. While in college at Mount Holyoke, she went abroad to Chile, where she worked in social circus, a movement which uses circus arts to promote social justice, social good and empowerment.
"I got interested in doing circus myself because I really wanted to teach social circus," said Breunig. "At that point, I had more passion than skill."
To learn skills, Breunig enrolled first in NECCA’s intensive program, a one-year precursor to the professional track program. She has also been a teacher at NECCA, and will soon be moving to Arizona, where she hopes to combine teaching and performing.
"NECCA is a really fabulous place to be to see people cultivated in life as performers and teachers," she said. "Seeing the creativity and the drive that people have has expanded my vision of what’s possible, both in circus and in life."
Helping students broaden their horizons is what the pro track program is all about. All students are encouraged to develop acts that they can take out into the professional world. Talent scouts from around the world have been invited to the Landmark College performances, and graduates of the program from past years are performing with Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey, European cabarets, the World’s Fair in Korea, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, a hotel in India and more.
Cole Dellazucca and Dan Stern met in the program and have developed a partner acrobatics act that they will be taking on the road to Arizona this summer, and after that, hopefully to more gigs.
Stern grew up in Arizona, spent the last year interning at a circus school in Israel and had never set foot in Vermont until he arrived in September for the program.
"When I first meet people and tell them why I moved here from Arizona, they don’t quite understand that NECCA is one of the best places to train in the nation," said Stern, who likes the rural setting because it doesn’t have as many distractions. "It’s a great place to come and woodshed and really work."
In fact, the New England Center for Circus Arts is one of only three places in the United States to offer a professional training program for aspiring circus artists -- the others are in San Francisco and New York City.
Free to focus on their work, the students spent four months training in a variety of skills, before choosing a major and a minor in January, to concentrate on developing particular skills into an act.
"I definitely learned some new high-level skills and (I learned) planning how to go between the skills, making them more than just a series of tricks," said Eliana Dunlap, a performer on the German wheel, who at 18 is the youngest student in the program.
It may be the circus, but life in the program is hard work.
"The coaches who see you wanting to be pushed, they’ll take advantage of it," said Dellazucca, who has a regular performing gig in Atlantic City, but is hoping her partnership with Stern grows into other opportunities. "Dan and I work well together."
Playing well with others is part of the deal at NECCA, which manages to cultivate a close-kit group out of 18 brilliant individual performers.
"I’m constantly looking around at what other people are doing when I should be practicing," said Dunlap. "Everyone is really inspiring to work with."
"That’s really been what’s carried me through," said Breunig. "It’s been inspiring ... just really loving."
That loving feeling is aimed at the community at large. As part of these graduation performances, NECCA is partnering with the United Way of Windham County for a benefit performance on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Admission on Saturday night is $15 for adults, 14 and over, and $8 for children. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased at www.unitedwaywindham.org. Tickets will also be for sale at the door the night of the performance and proceeds will support United Way community impact programs in Windham County.
"We really feel it’s important to give back to the community whenever possible," said NECCA Co-Founder Serenity Smith Forchion.
Other show times for "From Out of the Ordinary" are this Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m., Friday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 19, at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12 orchestra, $10 balcony, $8 for kids under 12 and can be purchased at www.necenterforcircusarts.org.
For more information, call 802-254-9780.