Brattleboro circus artist wins international award

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BRATTLEBORO — A local circus artist can add a new line to her resume.

Chloe Walier is now an international award-winning performer after a recent trip to Latvia for the Golden Karl Festival, also known as Riga Circus.

"It's all starting to sink in," she said, back at the New England Center for Circus Arts where she teaches.

After singing, clapping and judge introductions during the final ceremony, several awards were given out at one of the oldest circus traditions in Europe. That's when Walier was presented with the Cirka Makslinieku Asociacijas Specbalva, the special prize on behalf of the European Circus Association.

"We all were in costume and make-up," she said. "The seats were full of people and they brought out flags for every country that was represented. All of our steps were escorted by these dancers wearing these big crazy hats with feathers."

Approximately 32 acts from 20 different countries were counted by Walier, who said the majority of performers came from Ukraine, Russia and Latvia. She was joined by only one other American act, a duo from San Diego also specializing in trapeze. Other artists traveled from Romania, Poland, Belarus, Uzbekistan and all over the world.

The big top building in which the festival took place was 125 years old. Tunnels could be found throughout the space along with hand-painted traditional circus murals, Walier said. Because the building was so old and the floors were made of dirt, she was unable to do her bottle-walking act. She stuck with her fixed trapeze act, the one she was invited to perform, saying she felt it was appropriate given the amount of acts that judges had to assess. She previously told the Reformer she would walk on bottles there if given the chance.

Trained dog acts were completely new to Walier's eyes. She saw two while in Latvia; one featured all Dachshunds and the other had dogs chasing bowls spun off the top of poles placed on sawhorses. But there were plenty of other types of performances she had never seen done in the United States before.

Her trip involved a drive from Brattleboro to Penn Station in New York City, a train ride to John F. Kennedy Airport, an 11-hour flight to Sweden, a four-hour layover then finally a plane ride to Latvia. She was picked up by a man knowing no English at all.

"He just knew to pick up the tattooed girl with pigtails," said Walier.

Arriving at the hostel, she was told she could sleep for six hours. Then she woke up for a rehearsal.

"The stage was huge and there were pulley points from the ceiling," Walier said. "But because of the big dynamite tricks in my act, if the pulley points made the bar bouncy, I could do a trick and go for the bar and the bar could be a foot away from me if it bounced high."

She was given her own trapeze bar and a 3-foot mat to put underneath.

"It was probably the highest I've ever performed," she said.

Her cue to come on stage was seeing a huge Latvian man. Walier would stand on his shoulders and he'd carry her through the backstage curtain. Still, she could just barely reach the trapeze.

Walier's first trick saw her hanging underneath the bar then blindly going into a handstand.

"It's kind of explosive and a light bit scary," she said. "Every time I have performed that trick otherwise, I have been able to do at least once before the show, not have the first one of the day be in front of 4,000 people. That was intimidating."

She described her costume, a leotard and tights, as being "super sparkley" and made from scratch. And a big fake pony-tail was attached to her head.

Since the event, Walier has been in talks with producers and other big top circus groups.

"Nothing's really set in stone yet," she said. "I feel lucky that I got to get this number in front of some important people. It was a really incredible experience. It was wild."

Walier briefly met with her life and business partner Thom Wall, another local circus artist who has won various awards, when she returned from Latvia. They held hands for a couple hours before Wall was driven to the airport as he will be juggling in Japan for the Cirque du Soleil show "Totem." He will be back in March.

But the couple won't be in Brattleboro too long. They will go to Orlando, Fla., for some shows then head up north to Greensboro.

"We both just accepted jobs with the Circus Smirkus tour for the summer," Walier announced. "I'll be running the trapeze acts and Thom (Wall) will be running the juggling acts."

The next few months, she said, are going to be "a beautiful adventure."

"I love this life. It feels pretty amazing to be able to have my job be the things that make me happy," Walier said. "I couldn't have dreamed for this life to be any better."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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