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Lakeview Residency Update

Lakeview Elementary School students performing in a school circus.

The Lakeview Elementary School in our hometown of Greensboro, VT has about 80 students in grades K – 6. This school year something extraordinary happened there – nearly half of these kids participated in an extended Smirkus Residency that lasted about half of the school year within their PE class.

For me, as a former classroom science teacher and longtime unicycle coach, this was a chance to get to know many of our local kids and their parents, while expanding my skills in teaching circus arts. In this project I was fortunate to be mentored by Jackie Davis, a Circademic, former Smirkus coach and wife of the late Rick Davis, who directed our Residency Program for years.

With the luxury of time, we were able to introduce a wide range of Circus Arts, and to go deeply into technique and guided practice. We taught juggling of scarves, balls, Diablo and Tricky Sticks (Jackie’s name for the so-called Devil Sticks). Our balance unit featured wire, Rola Bola and Unicycle. Next we did clowning and mime followed by group acrobatics and show creation. Together we worked with all of the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the school.

It was a wild ride, with bumps, barriers and detours, but also successes, support, and new-found confidence among our budding performers. Our in-school performance in late May went beautifully, with the school’s younger students totally dazzled by the skills and humor of the big kids. On that same evening we put on a show for parents and the entire community; every seat in the school gym filled with fans as enthusiastic as you’ve seen at any show on the Big Top Tour.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than to work with kids as they take on seemingly impossible circus challenges, push through fatigue and frustration, and come together to put on a show that amazes both the audience and the performers themselves. That is Smirkus Magic!

Bill Merrylees
Circus Smirkus Camp and Residency Director