Photo by Dirk van Susteren
Budding performers and their coach work out at the New England Center for Circus Art in Brattleboro. They are, from left: Abby Lively, of Shelburne Falls, Mass., on a break; Sam Borrus, of Cambridge, Mass., doing a handstand; Coach Anthony Oliva, of Anchorage, Alaska, observing; and Fernanda Eggers Jorge, of Brazil, balancing on the hands of Kerry Kaye, of Brattleboro.
by Dirk Van Susteren
November 18, 2012
Twin sisters Serenity Smith Forchion and Elsie Smith once “ran away to join the circus” — and the two bookish high school nerds never looked back.
Running away to the circus is up there with going to sea or going West, as a time-honored American means of escape and self-actualization. What was special about the Smith twins was not that they took off, but that they returned. They came back to New England and established a circus school.
Serenity, 41, likes to tell the story of how they both attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1988, but dropped out after becoming enamored with all things circus — thanks to their experiences at an upstate New York children’s camp, where they worked for a summer.
Elsie made no pretense of returning to UMass; after camp she took off with a traveling circus group that offered classes at schools across the East Coast and the South. She soon would follow a boyfriend to Thunder Bay, Ont., where she would become a trampoline artist and coach.