Reporter Chris Mays reaches new heights at NECCA
BRATTLEBORO — Not every reporter gets the chance to drive a couple of miles and fly around in an aerial class inside a state-of-the-art circus school.
Within minutes of warming up with a light jog and some stretching with other participants on a February night, coaches in training took small groups to different areas in the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) facility on Putney Road. Our group started with the trapeze bar and very quickly, one at a time, hung upside down with our knees holding us up.
We were instructed to sit up on the bar, mimicking poses the coaches taught us. Then to my amazement, I was standing up on the trapeze bar, holding the ropes on each side to stay secure.
It was difficult not to imagine the number of people who started with the basics, felt the rush I did, then continued down the path of circus life. That thought seemed validated, too, when looking at the smiles on the coaches who were taking another step in committing to the art form by teaching it to others.
Founded by twins Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion, NECCA is an internationally known non-profit circus school, where anyone interested in learning can find a class or workshop. The sample class is part of what is called the Introduction to Teacher Training.
"It is intended to give the coaches in training some real life experience as they have been practicing on each other during their training up until when real people show up," Forchion said.
She said the curriculum is created by Nimble Arts, a company the sisters started before creating NECCA, and provided to groups all over the world. One of the "fundamentals" is real-life experience with actual students.
The host studio can use the sample class as a way for novice or new-to-circus community members to try out the experience without any commitment, Forchion said.
"Host studios usually get a few new students from the experience so it is a positive all around — coaches get real life experience, students get to sample a few apparatus, host studios get new enthusiasts," she said.
For the sample class, aerial silks followed the trapeze. The silks, made of fabric, move around more so than the trapeze bar. Coaches carefully watched us and informed us of any wrong moves to prevent injuries.
Gabrielle Leo, one of our coaches for the night, noticed that I seemed to be more comfortable on the trapeze.
"It's a little bit more stable," she said.
I found it quite difficult to do much more than stand on the fabric, although I did venture to lean forward with one foot out once and lean backwards with one foot out another time. And I didn't quite catch all of the instructions on how to wrap my foot with the silks before getting up in the air, however, I could appreciate that it is well thought out and minimizes the chances of getting hurt.
For both the trapeze and silks, we proved we could hang on and hold ourselves up — even if we needed a little spotting from one of the coaches. After the class, my shoulders and hands felt the burn more than any other body parts, but I also felt energized and glad to have challenged myself.
After sharing my positive experience with Forchion, she suggested coming to more classes. I think I will.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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