Circus Smirkus wows audience in Wilton

Wonderland was never more marvelous.

Alice never had a more thrilling trip through the looking glass.

The White Rabbit was fast. Alice didn’t catch her until the end when they performed together in a big hoop suspended over center ring.

The Queen of Hearts was properly nasty, but the Duchess’ baby turned out to be a small dog – a very highly trained and entertaining dog.

Circus Smirkus’ presentation of “Smirkus Through the Looking Glass” offers everything a circus is supposed to: superb acrobats and jugglers, aerial thrills, perfect timing, and most of all, fun. The performers were having just as much fun as the audience.
The circus was at High Mowing School in Wilton for two days, raising money for, and awareness of, The Educational Community Farm.

Circus Smirkus is an award-winning youth troupe, no one over age 18, and the performers bring lots of youthful enthusiasm to their thrilling presentation.

In this kind of performance, timing is everything. Six jugglers means 18 Indian clubs in the air, or 18 balls. Acrobatic clowns who catch and throw each other around need to be in the right places at the right time. Slapstick clowns rolling and sliding have to avoid each other when it seems impossible for them to do so.

The show combines clap-along music with sparkling costumes, ballet, amazing acrobatics and feats of skill. There is dancing on the tight wire (in pointe shoes, no less), synchronized acrobatics rivaling anything done in the water, daring feats on the high trapeze (safely secured with a life line).

Rope jumping is hard enough, but try it while jumping another rope, turning cartwheels, doing flips or lying down; and then do it “double Dutch,” the turning of two ropes at the same time.

The performers stacked themselves into towers and pyramids while juggling or doing other things, like balancing on one hand, or doing splits upside down.

And it all began with the unreal: a young woman sitting in a large hoop, swinging gently above the crowd, serenely playing her cello.

Circus Smirkus was founded in 1987 by Rob Mermin, a former clown and a former director of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Clown College. He founded Smirkus, he said, to give kids the chance to run away to their own circus.

Last fall, the Smirkus School of Circus Arts opened in Essex, Junction, Vt., offering classes from age 3 to adult in tight wire, trapeze, juggling, plate spinning, and balance on the rolling globe.

The summer circus tour is the only American youth circus with its own 750-seat single-ring big top. All seats were full Wednesday.

The Educational Community Farm, originally Temple-Wilton Community Farm, was founded in 1986, inspired by similar farms in Europe. It provides organically grown fruits, vegetables and dairy products for its members, and seeks to improve the soil through organic farming measures.

The farm now has a permanent home on 67 acres at Four Corners Farm in Wilton, thanks to the work of many people in securing grants and other aid, and the willingness of the developer to work with the group and provide a 99-year lease. Proceeds from the circus will this year will go toward a new hay barn and renovations to buildings.

Members of the circus frequently go on to perform in other places, including Sea World San Antonio in Texas, where nine graduates are performing this summer, and Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Two of this year’s performers, 12-year-old twins from Chicago, Manuel and Immanuel Turner, both members of Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team, will tour this fall with Ringling Brothers. They tended to steal the show.

The circus’ next performances will be Friday through Sunday at the Middlesex School in Concord, Mass. For information check, or call 1-802-533-7443.

Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or