April 21, 2014

The Smirkus comes to town

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Williston Central School fourth-grader Camie Cuttitta balances a peacock feather on her palm during an afters chool event hosted by Circus Smirkus. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Williston Central snares Circus Smirkus afterschool program

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

For Rick Davis, the circus is more than sword swallowers, bearded ladies and human cannonballs.

It’s a way of life, and a way to teach life skills to anyone willing to accept failure as a necessary byproduct of success.

“The interesting thing about circus arts is that it’s something for everybody of any skill level, any gender, any age,” Davis said.

Davis, who began his circus career almost 40 years ago as a clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, has spent the past decade as an afterschool program director for Circus Smirkus, a Greensboro, Vt.-based nonprofit circus dedicated to teaching circus arts to children.

“The primary reason why Circus Smirkus does this is to foster life skills in the children,” Davis said. “They gain confidence and persistence and patience, and they learn that trying new things can lead to unexpected pleasures.”

Since Monday, Davis has been the clown-in-residence at Williston Central School, where he has taught a group of 25 students everything from juggling and plate spinning to tightwire and acrobatics.

The weeklong blitzkrieg of big top schooling will culminate in a student-led performance at WCS’ Al Myers Theater on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

“It will be a memorable event,” Davis said. “Most children have the experience of being pleasantly surprised at how much they can learn in a short amount of time.”

The Circus Smirkus program at WCS is sponsored by Families as Partners, the Williston School District’s Parent Teacher Organization.

Liz Neeld, chairwoman of the FAP Advisory Council, paid particular tribute to the Friday night showcase.

“Just to see your peers up on stage performing, I think that’s motivating to other children, as well,” Neeld said. “That’s why I like the piece of the performance on a Friday night, where they can really get up and show what they’ve learned and maybe energize some other students to try it next year.”

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