Graduates from NECCA under a really big tent

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BRATTLEBORO >> Four graduates of the New England Center for Circus Arts packed up their tights and leotards, grabbed their juggling pins and mouthsticks, and headed to Latvia to compete in the annual Riga International Circus Festival that takes place Jan. 23 through 26. The best of the best circus performers from all around the world gather under the red dome of the Riga Circus, one of Europe's oldest circuses, all skilled in diverse genres of circus arts, all vying for the coveted Golden Karl award. This is the second year NECCA has been represented in Latvia. Last year Brattleboro-based NECCA graduate Alyssa Morar competed, winning a Special Prize for her aerial silks act. This year Megan Gendell and Lauren Feldman will partner in the doubles trapeze competition, Nicole Burgio will present a solo trapeze routine, and Juggler Thom Wall will be competing with a "mouthstick" act, which is also known as "glass balancing.".

Wall is no stranger to competition, having won a gold medal in the World Three Ball Juggling Championships in 2010 and 2011, and silver and bronze medals in the World Juggling Championships in 2012 and 2014 respectively. He has also toured with Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Dreams USO. In his act at Riga he will balance a variety of objects on the sharp of a knife, held between his teeth - wine glasses, bottles, a sword (balanced point-to-point). The finale will be balancing a lit candelabra on top of a balloon on the knife's edge, popping the balloon, and catching the candelabra in a perfect balance.

Burgio, who professionally is known as Della Zucca, will be working solo in a static trapeze set, presenting a high-level dance routine in the air. Immense strength and grace are required.

Trapeze artists Gendell and Feldman will be presenting their contemporary and fun routine "Frolic" to the judges. They were inspired to apply for the competition upon Morar's return when she recounted what a positive experience the festival had been for her, so they sent in a video of the their routine and were pleasantly surprised when they were accepted. Gendell said she is just excited to have the opportunity for the experience, although she is not sure what to expect. Gendell has been developing her circus skills for over eight years, and also teaches circus arts.

Her partner Feldman, described herself as the flyer in the pair and Gendell is the base. She said one of the primary differences between a doubles routine and a solo routine is the interaction between the two in doubles, that there is a physical vocabulary between the two. As the flyer in a doubles routine she makes contact with her partner in the air rather than directly on the swings and bars. Neither one has competed before and both are excited and curious as to what will happen, they know they have some pretty stiff competition. One thing that took them a bit by surprise was learning that the performances are with an audience in full circle around the act, necessitating a need to recraft their routine a bit to present themselves to all sides. They will be performing in a traditional circus environment, noting they will be twice as high in the air as they have ever been before. Feldman is just looking forward to a positive experience out of this more than any awards, but who knows.

Contact Cicely M. Eastman at 802-254-2311 x261

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