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Nimble Arts Circus wows in New London

New London — Maria Bonanno, 12, can't touch her toes, she told Melissa Knowles, 33, after watching Knowles perform an aerial acrobatics act during which she fit herself through a 12-inch-wide hoop.

"I don't know how she did that," Bonanno said Sunday after seeing the 4 p.m. performance by the Nimble Arts Circus in front of the giant whale's tail in Parade Plaza.

It was the sixth year the troupe, which is based in Brattleboro, Vt., and features acrobats, contortionists and jugglers, performed in the city. Barbara Neff, of Neff Productions, who helped bring in the act, said it was the largest 4 p.m. showing over the six years. She noted that the 6 p.m. performance usually draws a bigger crowd because it's cooler later in the day.

Neff said two sisters, Elsie and Serenity Smith, who previously were Cirque du Soleil performers, started the circus troupe.

"I thought it was amazing, also terrifying," Bonanno said, noting that she might entertain trying some of the acts but likely would fail.

Bonanno and her friend Ryder Singer-Johnson took self-portraits or "selfies" on their phones with some of the performers.

"I was, like, I need to keep this for memories," Bonanno said.

Singer-Johnson was equally impressed with the performance.

"I don't know how these people do it," she said. "They're just so cool, so talented, flexible and strong."

The troupe performed two 45-minute shows and led a juggling workshop.

The performances were all diverse. Chloe Walier, 22, hung on her stomach from a 36-inch hoop while she and Knowles both gripped a 12-inch hoop. Walier pulled Knowles up by the smaller of the hoops as Knowles did a somersault and threaded her body through it.

Walier, who grew up doing gymnastics, said performing allows her to "connect with lots of people at once." She enjoyed performing in front of the intimate crowd that lined the cement staircase around the whale's tail.

Knowles shared a similar sentiment.

"I like being able to make people smile, spread joy, take people out of their lives for a second," she said.

Another act featured a woman dressed in a bright red lace dress who put her feet in the loops of two side-by-side synthetic ropes, held up by steel beams, and did a split in mid-air.

At one point, two cars almost crashed on Water Street near where the performance was taking place, and the emcee later joked that the act was so good it almost caused an accident. Several times during the performance, cars would honk as they drove by, presumably in appreciation.

The troupe members perform all over the country and the world. After working for a long period with no time off, Knowles was preparing for a couple of weeks' vacation.

"I'm going for a motorcycle ride up to Maine and going camping," she said.

Twitter: @JuliaSBergman


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