Youth circus troupe coming to Hampshire Hills

MILFORD – The in­vention of flying ma­chines early in the 20th century was truly awe-inspiring, but hu­man beings have been challenging gravity, and amazing audiences, for centuries – ever since the circus was created in mid-1700s England.

On Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31, young people from the Vermont-based youth circus troupe, Circus Smirkus, are bringing their gravity-defying skills to Hampshire Hills Ath­letic Club. The jugglers, acrobats and clowns will hold four performances with the theme "The In­vention of Flight," in a big 800-seat tent.

Circus Smirkus is a nonprofit, international youth circus made up of 30 young people from all over the country, includ­ing three from this area. All were chosen through auditions.

Typically, Circus Smirkus puts on benefit shows for local nonprofits, usually schools, but the shows at Hampshire Hills will benefit The Flying Gravity Circus, the local youth circus, based in Wil­ton, that provides train­ing and stage experience to local teenagers. It was founded in 1999 by Jackie Davis and 11 alumni from the Pine Hill Waldorf School.

Flying Gravity performs in theaters and schools across New England and beyond and offers work­shops to help communi­ties build their own youth circus programs.

Jon Roitman, Flying Gravity’s artistic director and head coach, grew up in Wilton, attended Pine Hill and High Mowing schools in Wilton and be­gan his theatrical career at Andy’s Summer Play­house in Wilton Center.

He has toured interna­tionally, performing in more than 17 countries and is the protege of Jack­ie Davis, who ran the Sil­ver Lining Circus Camp in Temple with her late hus­band, Rick.

Both Flying Gravity and Circus Smirkus are contemporary circuses, meaning the performanc­es are based almost en­tirely on human skills and theatrical techniques, in­cluding music and story-telling.

Along with juggling and high-flying acrobatics, there will be clowns, uni­cycles and more, Roitman said.

The local kids in the show are Jack Miron, 17, of Bedford; Dylan Biedrzycki, 15, of Merri­mack; and Keiran Sass, 16, of Wilton.

"It’s exciting for us that three of our perform­ers were chosen to go on tour with the best circus performers in the U.S.," Roitman said, in a phone interview.

Circus Smirkus’ 2016 Big Top Tour started in Greensboro, Vt., in June. After the Milford perfor­mances, it goes to Free­port, Maine; Newbury, Mass.; Montpelier, Vt.; and then back to Greensboro.