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Circus Smirkus
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Circus Smirkus is still headquartered in rural Vermont, in the same farmhouse that was its first home. Photo by Harry Powers, courtesy of Circus Smirkus

An award-winning international youth troupe, Circus Smirkus promotes the skills, culture, and traditions of the traveling circus and inspires youth to engage in life-changing adventures. Founded in an old farmhouse in rural Vermont in 1987, Smirkus now touches the lives of tens of thousands of youth and adults each year as performers, audience members, campers, and dreamers.

Smirkus’ Big Top Tour is the only American youth circus to travel “under canvas,” touring for the whole summer season in a one-ring European-style tent. Its thirty performers range in age from ten to eighteen and are immersed in circus life on the road. Smirkus also provides training with summer Smirkus Camps and unique educational opportunities in the Ringmaster Residency programs for schools around New England—all contributing to the reinvention and revival of circus arts in America today.

At the Folklife Festival, founder Rob Mermin was joined by “Smirko” alumni to showcase their role in propagating the values and culture of the traveling circus and its place in circus education in America. Co-creator of the CircusSecrets methodology Jackie Davis and youth development researcher Jen Agans will also demonstrate how the skills and allure of the circus can impart learning strategies that meet the needs of schools and students alike.

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