Thursday February 21, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Kevin Beverley learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of the circus performance during his time at the New England Center for Circus Arts.

He also learned a lot about nuts and bolts.

Beverley came to Brattleboro right after finishing high school in 2008 to study at NECCA, but he needed a job to help pay for circus school. He found one at Brown & Roberts.

"After a couple days of writing applications and calling around, Paul Putnam from Brown & Roberts was the only person to call me back," wrote Beverley in an e-mail from France, where he has been performing for the last three months. "I don’t think they really needed any help in the store, but he gave me the job anyways. The job was a challenge at first because I’ve never done anything like that before, but it ended up being quite fun because of the people that worked there. Some of them used to call me ‘Rooster,’ but I forget the reason why."

Well, Rooster is returning to Brattleboro the weekend of March 2 and 3 to perform at the Latchis Theatre in "Circus Spectacular: A Hot Show on a Cold Weekend," a benefit for NECCA which features performers from Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros., Cirque Eloize and Cirque Le Masque alongside professional performers from the school.

Beverley’s fond memories of working at Brown & Roberts matter to this story because the Circus Spectacular is not just about dazzling performances -- although there will be plenty of those.


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It’s a celebration of the embrace NECCA and the community hold each other in -- and a meaningful way to strengthen that embrace. Proceeds from the show benefit NECCA’s Outreach Programs, which provide non-competitive physical and creative experiences for students who would not otherwise have access to NECCA programs. Among the people served by the outreach programs are autistic children from Inspire for Autism, foster children from Northeastern Family Institute, youth in Brattleboro Housing developments, cancer survivors and their families with Forest Moon, youth at the Brattleboro Boys & Girls Club, students in local public schools and more. Scholarships are also provided to at least 25 percent of the school’s 2,000 students who range in age from 18 months to 80 and more.

For the performers, the weekend is a chance to showcase their work and also to reconnect with the community which means so much to them.

"It is super important to me to stay close with the people that have helped me along the way, and ever since graduating from NECCA, I’ve wanted to come back and show my stuff," said Beverley, who since leaving NECCA, spent three years studying at the prestigious L’Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal and performing his signature dance trapeze number at several events and in Chicago, Germany and lately with the Canadian troupe "7 Fingers of the Hand" in France.

Beverley is not the only NECCA alum returning from far off places to take the Latchis stage.

When she left Brattleboro in the spring of 2011 after a year with NECCA’s Professional Track Program, Morgan Oldham wasn’t sure where her hand-balancing/contortion act would take her. Then she got a call from Cirque Polynesia to perform in Hawaii.

"After a winter in Vermont, I needed some Hawaii," said Oldham in a phone interview Tuesday. "It was like a dream come true. I had a guardian angel."

Since returning from Hawaii a year ago, Oldham spent four months performing at the World Expo in South Korea, starring in an aerial harness act and as a dancer in the Samsung Pavillion.

"It was really, really cool to go into this completely different culture," said Oldham. "Another dream true. I get to do things and experience things I always wanted to because of circus."

But her far-flung adventures have not dimmed her appreciation for Brattleboro and NECCA, no matter how cold it gets.

"I feel like they’ve given me so much," said Oldham who had merely dabbled in circus and was largely self-taught before friends who’d studied at NECCA recommended she try it, too. "It was a really important time. It helped me improve my skills, but it really helped introduce me to a wonderful group of coaches and performers."

NECCA was equally life-changing for Marshall Jarreau, who had been a dancer -- good enough to place in the top 24 in the first season of "So You Think You Can Dance" -- before a stint as an aerial artist performing for Royal Caribbean cruises convinced him to make a change.

"I had so much fun in the air that I wanted to to get more training," said Jarreau. "It’s more exciting than being on the ground."

In similar fashion, his career got off the ground. He had a contract in hand for Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show "Love" before graduating from NECCA’s Professional Track Program in 2011. He’s currently in "Orchid," a circus/cabaret/burlesque show in Miami, which is headed to New York City.

Jarreau performs a unique aerial chains act.

"You don’t see a lot of people in chains ... the most obvious reason is the pain," he said. "I don’t think there’s any doubt how bad-ass it is."

The "Circus Spectacular" will bring the "bad-ass" and the beautiful to the Latchis Theatre stage, in performances of high-flying trapeze, aerial silks, partner balancing, juggling, comedy and more on Saturday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 3, at 1 p.m.

Among the other NECCA alums performing are Roger May and Ellen Waylonis-May. She toured with the Cirque Productions show "Holidaze" as an aerialist after graduating in 2011 and both freelance with their partner acrobatic act. Emcee personalities this year will be NECCA coach Bill Forchion, formerly with Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros, with assistance from Forever Marzipan comedy aerial duo Elise ‘Teddy’ Sipos and Gwynne Flanagan, who graduated in 2012. Circus Smirkus star and local favorite Troy Wunderle will also take part.

Tickets range from $10 to $50 and are available at www.necenterforcircusarts.org. For information, call NECCA at 802-254-9780.