Running Away to Join Smirkus

Senior Sorrell Nielsen has been involved in circus arts since she was five years old when her older brother, Tristan, and his friends needed circus props and started throwing around Sorrell and her sister, Greylin. Sorrell and her siblings attended the Pine Hill Waldorf School where the circus program was a big draw for all of them.
Sorrell’s siblings inspired her because she was intrigued by the many possibilities in circus arts. Sorrell continued to follow this passion, learning to juggle, unicycle, balance on rolling globes and tightwire throughout her studies at the Pine Hill. After years of attending the Silver Lining Circus Camp, performing with the Flying Gravity Circus (FGC) and seeing her brother, then her sister in the performing ring for FGC and the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour,  Sorrell finally took the plunge and sent in an audition tape to Circus Smirkus in 2011.

Circus Smirkus has a touring company of about 30 performers, ages 10-18, selected in a rigorous process that begins with sending videos of your performing skills to Circus Smirkus. From several hundred videos, and the prior year's performers, about 40 kids are invited to live auditions--a weekend of fun, frolic, and serious performances that demonstrate your skills in 3 minute prepared pieces, lots of improvisational games, strength and acrobatic assessments. Sorrell was not invited to live auditions for the 2012 Circus Smirkus Tour.

But Sorrell continued to train while a student at High Mowing, choosing to spend the 2012 projects block working intensively with High Mowing alumnus Jonathan Roitman '03 on campus and at the New England Center for Circus Arts. She sent in another video in the fall of 2012 and was invited to live auditions for 2013 and again in 2014. The audition process can be heartbreaking but it can also be fun and make you focus on what is important to you.

Sorrell joined her classmate Bekk McGowan '14 in the Circus Smirkus ring for the summer of 2013 in a show based on "The Wizard of OZ"  and she will tour again this summer (2014) in a show that will take us all to the mythical land of Atlantis. The summer of high school graduation is the last opportunity to tour with Circus Smirkus. While following in the footsteps of her older siblings in the Smirkus ring, she brings her own skills and personality to this pursuit.

For her senior project, Sorrell chose to focus on circus. In her research paper, she outlined the history of circus, compared traditional and contemporary circus and how circus continues to evolve into a recognized art form. Her research included interviews with traditional and contemporary circus performers, including her brother Tristan, and Sara Greene, who directed the Hilltop Circus at Pine Hill this year. Sorrell presented her research as a slideshow and talk demonstrating the themes of her paper. She also created a tight wire piece that displayed her interpretation of contemporary circus and presented it to the school.

Congratulations Sorrell, we are proud of how gracefully you are travelling this road and developing your passions.  Circus Smirkus will have shows around New England this summer, including the Cheshire County Fairgrounds in Swanzey, NH on July 15 and 16. Tickets and the whole schedule can be found at smirkus.org. See you down the road.

High Mowing School

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