Reaching new heights without higher education

Senior plans to attend circus school after graduating


Rob Riingen Photography

Nemo Mass ’18 performs for hundreds as he spirals towards the stage

Maggie Trovato '19, School Staff

Running away with the circus isn’t an uncommon dream for little kids. What is uncommon, however, is taking the steps to fulfill that dream. Next year, Nemo Mass ‘18 will forge a different path than his classmates, taking the final step he needs to achieve his dream. Instead of going to a traditional college, Mass will attend the New England Center for Circus Arts.

For Mass, it all started with a trip to the circus.

“I went to Midnight Circus’ Halloween shows when I was a little kid,” said Mass. “I talked to one of the performers after a show and asked him how I could get into circus. He told me to start with gymnastics, so that’s what I did.”

At age 11, Mass moved on to circus arts. Right now, he is training with two different organizations, Aloft Circus Arts and MSA & Circus Arts.

“My specialty is rope, which is an aerial apparatus also called Corde Lisse. I also [do] base hand to hand [partner acrobatics] and do straps, which is another aerial apparatus,” said Mass. “I’ve also had some training in juggling, unicycle, trampoline, teeterboard, Chinese pole, Korean plank, and Russian bar.”

After graduating from Jones, Mass will attend a three year circus school in Brattleboro, Vermont.

“Next year I’m going to New England Center for Circus Arts, which is also called NECCA. It’s one of the only circus schools in the United States,” said Mass.

While it isn’t unheard of to become a circus artist without going to circus school, Mass sees it as the safer option.

“It’s possible to start working right away and make your way up, but it’s definitely less scary to go to a school and then get hired.”

In some other countries, especially in Europe, circus schools are more prevalent and less expensive.

“There, circus is another art form,” said Mass. “They have circus schools that are state-funded art schools.”

Many students focus on getting the perfect ACT score or writing the perfect college essay, but to get into the school of his dreams, Mass focused on perfecting his act.

“For [NECCA] and most other circus schools, there’s a video process and then a live audition process,” he said. “The live audition is everything. You do your own act; you present yourself as your three or four minute act of your own apparatus. But then there’s also dance, theater, juggling, clowning, conditioning, strength, flexibility; all the things that make you a circus artist. They test you on everything.”

Mass’s decision has been welcomed and accepted by family and friends.

“My family, for the most part, was pretty much cool with it,” said Mass. “My parents are very artistic. They both used to be body piercers. My dad still owns a body piercing company.”

Mass’s friend RL Taradash ‘19 shared excitement for him.

“He’s a very talented guy, and while I have no doubt he would succeed in a traditional college, he belongs in a place where his talent can be pushed to the limits and ultimately make him better,” said Taradash.

Some of Mass’s friends find his decision inspiring.

“Most people don’t do what they really want to do because it can be really scary to go after dreams, especially when it involves taking a real risk,” said Olive Louise Jenkins ‘18. “But Nemo always chooses to take that risk because he knows what he wants and what he needs to do to get it. That’s extremely inspiring to me. Nemo chasing his dreams always keeps me on my toes and reminds me to step my game up.”

After graduating from NECCA, Mass hopes to get a contract with a touring company.

“That’s something a lot of graduates do. They either get contracts from some type of show or they start their [own] companies,” said Mass. “They get a tent, get some friends, make a show and take that on tour. Eventually that’s something I want to do, but first I want to get hired.”

Before school is in session, Mass plans to go on tour this summer with Circus Smirkus. The tour consists of circus artists from the ages of 10 to 18 performing for two months throughout New England. On tour, Mass will be doing rope, partner acrobatics, juggling, and banquine, a type of partner acrobatics.

While circus school has obvious differences from traditional colleges, there are some hidden similarities. Many people who go to college go to learn more about something that they are passionate about, and that is no different for Mass.

“Circus has been my artistic form of expression, something that I’ve been fascinated with and wanted to pursue,” said Mass. “ I’ve wanted to be a circus artist since I was younger. I’ve had a dream of that. Circus school is something that makes it possible in my own brain.”