The show will go on – the circus show, that is – at Thompson’s Point in Portland.

A new circus school will replace the Circus Conservatory of America, which has suspended classes indefinitely and postponed its efforts to become a degree-granting college. The conservatory was promoted as an anchor for the $100 million redevelopment of an old rail yard on the Fore River into a mix of arts spaces, businesses and residences.

The new school, Circus Maine, was started by former Circus Conservatory of America instructor Josh Oliver and will offer classes in acrobatic circus skills to “students of all levels and abilities.” Circus Maine is not seeking to become a degree-granting institution.

The launch of Circus Maine was announced Monday in a joint news release issued by Oliver and Chris Thompson, a principal in the group that is developing Thompson’s Point.

Thompson said he continues to support the efforts of Circus Conservatory of America and its plan to become a circus college. But, he said, Circus Maine will fill the “void” left when Circus Conservatory of America canceled its recreational classes, including a slate of courses planned for this fall. The new school’s staff will include instructors and others who had worked with Circus Conservatory of America.

“The Circus Conservatory of America showed a lot of people how exciting and important circus is in Portland,” Thompson said. “They brought together some very talented people who are committed to delivering training for kids and adults.”


Enrollment for Circus Maine classes is expected to begin this month.

When plans for the Circus Conservatory of America were first announced in 2013, the school was hailed by city officials as an exciting addition to Portland’s creative economy. It was announced as the first tenant for Thompson’s Point. The development plan for the 30-acre parcel includes space for arts, retail, a hotel, residences and other businesses. A 5,000-capacity outdoor event space on Thompson’s Point began hosting concerts this summer.

The Circus Conservatory of America’s president, Peter Nielsen, said last week that his school had canceled fall classes and would no longer lease a Thompson’s Point building. He said those steps were taken so the school could spend more time and money on getting degree-granting authority from the state.

But those steps are slowing the process. The conservatory was supposed to have had a site review by the Maine Department of Education this week, as part of the approval it needs to grant degrees. The visit had to be postponed when the school gave up its Thompson’s Point location.

Nielsen said last week that he would continue his efforts to launch the Circus Conservatory of America in Portland.

Circus Maine will offer classes in the same leased space Circus Conservatory of America had been using, 6,000 square feet inside an old brick building. The Circus Conservatory of America had been offering recreational circus arts classes there since January.

The new school’s “master coach” will be Sellam Ouahabi, who has performed for years throughout Europe and has taught at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont.

Oliver could not be reached for additional comment Monday. In the news release, he wrote that Circus Maine will offer “high value circus training” and “world-class circus performances.”

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