Then-15-year-old Theo LeBlanc of South Portland throws a bucket of water at his fellow performers as part of a clown act during a 2018 performance with Circus Smirkus. Courtesy Marvin Wang

SOUTH PORTLAND — For the second year in a row, a city teenager is touring the northeast with Circus Smirkus, the country’s only traveling youth circus.

When he’s not juggling rings or clowning around, 16-year-old Theo LeBlanc is learning how to juggle the responsibilities that come with being a team player during the Big Top Tour.

LeBlanc

LeBlanc has been on tour with Circus Smirkus since the end of June and will be performing at Maine Coast Waldorf School, 57 Desert Road in Freeport, Aug. 5 and 6 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The seven-week long tour, now in its 32nd year, features 30 performers between the ages of 10 and 18 from across the country. This year’s tour will include 69 performances in 51 days across five states.

Mary Martin, events coordinator at  Maine Coast Waldorf School, said this year’s tour features a carnival theme, inspired by the elegance of the carousel ride and other carnival attractions.

Theo’s father, Justin LeBlanc, said the work can be exhausting, because the teens perform twice a day from June 29 to Aug. 19. But no matter how tough it can get, his son always feels his hard work pays off.

“Theo has really has put a lot into this. They all have, and it’s neat as a parent to watch the kids come together and help each other out,” LeBlanc said. “It’s not just about stepping out on stage, but a lot of stuff happens behind the scenes.” 

Leblanc said the teamwork mentality has been exceptionally beneficial for his son’s well-being and personal growth. While touring, he said, the performers not only put on shows together, but wash dishes and tackle other group chores.

“They come back with a healthy respect for what it takes to put on a show,” LeBlanc said. “These other performers are his tribe at this point. They are the people who get him, and he loves it.”

Theo developed an interest in juggling in 2014, at the age of 11, and participated in “Juggle Jams” at Circus Maine starting in 2015. He later took classes there and participated in its Youth Performance Troupe until it closed last year.

He attended Circus Smirkus camp in 2016, and sent in an audition video in 2017, but was not selected to participate. After the rejection, Theo increased his training from six hours per week to 20 hours.

“When he finds something that interests him, he’s going to take a deep dive,” LeBlanc said. “He’ll read about it, watch videos on it, and try to soak it all in. He’s constantly challenging himself.”

Theo has been training at Sellam Circus School in Biddeford since last year and has expanded to several disciplines. He has learned tumbling and several forms of acrobatics, such as banquine, which is an acrobatic act with at least three people, with two or more “bases” and at least one flyer. The training has helped him add strength, agility, flexibility and balance to his routine.

“It’s fun, I like making people happy and doing hard things,” Theo said.I love learning new skills and meeting new people and what I’m doing is the best way to do that.”

He said he has learned to collaborate and be a team player with his fellow performers. He hopes to attend circus school after high school and make a career of his passion.

“It’s what I love doing,” Theo said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

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