Circus College Opens in Maine - NECN
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Circus College Opens in Maine

If you've ever dreamed of running away to join the circus, you may not have to travel far. The Circus Conservatory of America is now accepting its first students in Portland.

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    If you've ever dreamed of running away to join the circus, you may not have to travel far. The Circus Conservatory of America is now accepting its first students in Portland. (Published Monday, Jan. 12, 2015)

    If you've ever dreamed of running away to join the circus, you may not have to travel far. The Circus Conservatory of America is now accepting its first students in Portland, Maine.

    This is not the "cotton candy under the big top circus" of your youth, mind you.

    "It's new circus," said Cory Tabino, one of the school's coaches. "It's a fusion between theater, dance and performance arts, acrobatics included, of course."

    Until now, these performers, many of whom perform with Cirque de Soleil, have had to get their training outside the United States.

    "We're here to change that," said CCA President Peter Nielsen. "To provide an opportunity for American circus artists, who grow up and want to choose this as a career, to study it."

    CCA's training facility in Portland is housed inside what used to be industrial warehouse space on Thompson's Point.

    Their initial offering are recreational, open to anyone who wants to give circus arts, such as juggling or trapeze, a try.

    "The thing about circus is no matter what your body, no matter what your age, no matter what your particular skill level or personality, there's always something for you," said Hillary Webb, CCA's academic dean.

    The coaches, most of whom are circus pros, break down seemingly-impossible maneuvers into attainable skills.

    "A lot of what we get is 'I can't possiblydo that,'" said Tabino. "We break down every movement. It's safe. And we will show you how to get from standing on your head to standing on one hand."

    By September of 2015, the school plans to accept students from other schools for a "circus semester."

    By September 2016, CCA hopes to enroll students in a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program.

    The conservatory also has an ambitious expansion plan that includes adding a 60,000 square foot performing arts center onto the existing space.

    The staff hopes the public will come to see the circus for what it really is - a career path.

    "Absolutely, this is a legitimate career option," said Nielsen. "People work all over the world in the circus industry."

    He hopes many of the industry's future stars will get their start in Portland.

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