New England Center for Circus Arts hosts all inclusive co-production in new space

A co-production with Nimble Arts and the Southern Vermont Dance Festival was performed on Nov. 5.
Chris Mays — The Brattleboro Reformer
BRATTLEBORO — Now that New England Center for Circus Arts has more space, other groups have been invited to get the most out of its gymnasium.

"We are getting used to our new building," Serenity Smith Forchion, co-founder of NECCA, said Sunday in the new facility on Town Crier Drive in Brattleboro.

Forchion thanked Southern Vermont Dance Festival founder Brenda Siegel for having her organization participate in a co-production with Nimble Arts, NECCA and AXIS Dance Company, which works with people with or without physical disabilities. Other dance companies and coaches are scheduled for workshops throughout this month.

AXIS Artistic Director Marc Brew called Sunday's performance an "informal sharing" to show off things the dancers have been exploring. His group, which is based out of Oakland, Calif., conducts outreach, professional development and advocacy for access to dance.

"It's just been amazing how open they have all been," Brew said, referring to the 15 participating artists who learned the material in two days.

Dancers moved in and out of a space cleared of all equipment used for circus arts. Duets were then performed.

"The other tasks I gave dancers was what we call 'boxed in,' which is developing solo material," Brew said. "Originally, imagining you're in a cube and you're trying to escape."

Another part involved using "word association" to inspire dances, according to Brew. And James Bowen and Lani Dickinson, members of the AXIS company, finished the event with a duet by showing the second part of a 25-minute piece. Dickinson is missing her left arm.

The building erupted in applause after the performances.

"I've done other workshops where the teacher says, 'You can do this sitting down,' or, 'You can do this however you want to,' and I'm often the only person with disabilities," said Johnny Blazes, a circus arts teacher in Somerville, Mass., who was 32 weeks pregnant. "And I'm the only person sitting or the only person adapting, and it's fine and I'm grown up and I can do that. But I realized it was so much less exhausting to be here and not be the only person sitting down."

Brew told attendees the project was about building, supporting and encouraging a safe environment to explore ideas and get bodies moving. He was not "just dictating," he added.

Toby MacNutt, of Burlington, said he liked how participants were given tasks rather than choreographic distractions. He used his wheelchair for parts of his dancing. Other times, he was on the floor.

Brew said he has been using a wheelchair for 24 years. He sang the local dance and circus arts community's praises.

"I was just amazed at how open everyone was and of course how friendly, and how focused," he said. "It's just been a really great and lovely group to work with and the fresh air is beautiful."

His group had visited the area in the spring for the Southern Vermont Dance Festival.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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