Gill resident touring with Circus Smirkus

  • Gill resident Maia Castro-Santos, 16, who is touring with Circus Smirkus through mid-August, performs on the aerial chair. Contributed Photo/Marvin Wang

  • Gill resident Maia Castro-Santos, 16, who is touring with Circus Smirkus through mid-August, performs under a bi top tent. Contributed Photo/Marvin Wang

  • The Circus Smirkus troupe performs on tour. Contributed Photo/Marvin Wang

Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2019 10:52:21 PM

GILL — A Gill teenager will be spending her summer flipping under the big top circus tent, instead of off the high-dive at the local pool.

Maia Castro-Santos, 16, will be touring with Circus Smirkus. After more than 30 years in business, Circus Smirkus remains the only traveling “tented” youth circus in the United States, performing under traditional European-style circus tents.

As part of this year’s show, Maia will be performing in the hula hoop act, the aerial silk act and the aerial chair act, using a special aerial chair invented specifically for this performance.

According to Maia’s mother, Jocelyn Castro-Santos, “she grew up watching Circus Smirkus shows in Northampton and was amazed by the performers.” Maia started attending the Smirkus Camp in Brattleboro, Vt. when she was just 8 years old.

While she has been attending camp for half of her life, this is Maia’s first year auditioning and being selected to tour with the troupe. Maia, an aerial artist, submitted a video tape for the first round of auditions, which anyone can submit to on the Circus Smirkus website. She then attended a weekend-long round of callbacks with 60 other children at the New England Center for Circus Arts before earning her spot.

“Kids audition from all over the world,” Joceyln said. “They have kids from France and Africa, but mostly there are kids from the U.S. Because the camp is located so close, there are a lot of children from New England. It’s amazing when you see these young kids performing at this professional level.”

According to a Circus Smirkus press release, the whole troupe is made up of roughly 30 other budding circus stars, ages 11 to 18. The other members of the Circus Smirkus troupe hail from Colorado (2), Massachusetts (8), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), New York (3), Pennsylvania (3), Rhode Island (2), Virginia (1), Vermont (4), Washington (2), and internationally from Canada (1). Each performer blends his or her youthful energy with a polished set of circus skills.

While Maia knew a few of the other performers before the auditions, she said most of them only met each other for the tour and have already grown into a tight-knit group.

“The whole troupe is really close,” Maia said. “On jump days, where we don’t have shows and are traveling, we play music and games on the van. We have a really good time.”

Maia is a student at Northfield Mount Hermon School and is a member of the Senior Dance Company. In addition to her dance work, she trains in lyra, fabric and hoops at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, Vt., according to the release. When she is not performing under the big top, she spends time as a youth ambassador for the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) and as a contributing writer to the blog, “Circus Is My Life” at

Maia, who is entering her senior year, said that while she plans to attend college after she graduates, she also wants to continue performing in the circus and keep it a part of her life.

This year’s Circus Smirkus summer tour began on June 29, and will include four shows at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton Tuesday and Wednesday at 1 and 6 p.m. The show will also travel to the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Keene, N.H. for July 15 and 16, also with performances at both 1 and 6 p.m.

“I’m really excited to be performing for people that I know,” Maia said. “A lot of friends and family members are able to come to these shows.”

According to the release, the theme for the 2019 show is the Great American Carnival. The show is inspired by the elegance of the carousel ride, the thrill of the roller coaster, and games of chance and skill.

While on tour, the cast of young artists will be showcasing their wide set of circus skills. This includes aerial skills, acrobatics, wire-walking, juggling and clowning, all performed in classical costumes alongside live music.

The tour will travel through mid-August, with a caravan of 23 support vehicles and approximately 80 people, including artists, tent crew members and band members. They will be visiting five states and 16 towns, performing a total of 69 shows in 51 days.

The tour schedule and tickets are available at or by calling 1-877-SMIRKUS.

Zack DeLuca can by reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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