Saratoga County

Teens at center stage in Circus Smirkus

Violet Phillips could hardly stand still as she waited to be led under the tent at Circus Smirkus.
Angie Capuano, 6, of Saratoga Springs, right, shows her friend Kelsey Moorhead, 6, of Saratoga Springs, left, her new glasses while the two wait in line for the Circus Smirkus Tuesday evening at the Saratoga Race Course.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Angie Capuano, 6, of Saratoga Springs, right, shows her friend Kelsey Moorhead, 6, of Saratoga Springs, left, her new glasses while the two wait in line for the Circus Smirkus Tuesday evening at the Saratoga Race Course.

Violet Phillips could hardly stand still as she waited to be led under the tent at Circus Smirkus.

“Her friends brought her last year, and she’s talked about it all year,” said Beth DuPont of Saratoga Springs, the mother of 4-year-old Violet.

“All of it was so funny,” the little girl recalled, saying she couldn’t wait to see someone get a pie in the face. The preschooler and her friends got a pass from day care on Tuesday to watch the Greensboro, Vt.-based youth circus.

Circus Smirkus, which stars solely humans and no animals, is a mix of acrobatics, dance, comedy and theatrics.

“We don’t have anything like it in Saratoga,” said Gina Michelin, development director for The Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, which is hosting the circus.

Advance ticket sales have been better than last year, said Robert Sanson, a local event organizer.

Maybe that’s because local people are thinking about circuses after reading the Saratoga Reads book “Water for Elephants” this year. “Those that took part in that reading event kind of have ‘circus’ on the brain,” Michelin said.

There are still tickets left for both shows today. Sanson said about 450 tickets were sold for Tuesday afternoon’s show. The capacity is 750 people.

The traveling show is performing 70 times in 14 New England towns this summer, with Saratoga Springs as its only stop in New York.

The 30 circus troupers are ages 14 to 19 and come from all over the United States and other countries as well. One of them is local.

Taylor Wright-Sanson, a 16-year-old renowned unicyclist and a third-year trouper, will be a junior at The Waldorf School this fall.

Both of his parents are involved with bringing the circus to Saratoga Springs.

Cynthia Wright first saw Circus -Smirkus perform several years ago. “Like most adults, she thought, ‘It’s a kids’ circus,’” said her husband, Robert Sanson.

She didn’t have high expectations for the show but changed her mind after seeing it.

“She called me that night, saying, ‘You have got to see this show.’”

The couple wanted their stunt-happy son to see it too.

“He gets yelled at all the time for doing these things,” Sanson said. In Circus Smirkus, the coaches don’t scold him and warn him he’ll break a bone.

“He does a trick and the coaches are saying, ‘Yeah, but can you do it higher?’”

It has paid off.

When the Saratoga Springs teen appeared on stage and did his unicycle routine during Tuesday’s show, he wore a big smile and got loud cheering after nailing each stunt.

He even gave high-fives to several children sitting around the ring as he sped around on his one-wheeler.

Daniel Atkatz, 4, was hoping before the show that Circus Smirkus would be less scary than the last circus he went to.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth was too loud, said his mom, Jeanne O’Connor.

“I was scared, and they shot a real cannon inside,” Daniel said.

That didn’t happen at Smirkus, an event that adults who weren’t accompanying children even attended.

Michelin said she got a few calls from older folks who were excited about the circus too. “They said, ‘I’m 65 years old and I’m bringing my wife and we’re having a date night.’”

The two-day circus is a fundraiser for The Waldorf School, which is selling refreshments at the Midway before each show.

“It’s essentially two nonprofits working together,” Michelin said. This is the third year that Smirkus has appeared in Saratoga Springs and the second year that the Waldorf School has hosted it.

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