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Taylor Wright-Sanson takes his show on the road

Taylor Wright-Sanson always had a lot of energy, so when he was about 9, his parents bought him a unicycle.

It was mostly just to slow him down and challenge him, Wright-Sanson's father, Robert Sanson, remembered.

Soon enough, though, Wright-Sanson mastered the unicycle -- so much so that two years ago, he joined the circus.

It sounds like a joke, but the Saratoga Springs teen is spending the summer touring with Circus Smirkus, a show whose acrobats, jugglers and trapeze artists range from 10 to 18 years old. Based in Vermont, Circus Smirkus is a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing kids to circus life. Over the course of seven weeks this summer, it will put on 71 shows.

Wright-Sanson, 16, will enjoy a homecoming of sorts on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 8 and 9, when the circus stops in Saratoga. It will put on shows at 2 and 7 p.m. both days at the Saratoga Race Course.

"It's very, very professionally done," Sanson said. "The level of competency is right there with adults."

That's because, like Wright-Sanson, the performers have been honing their crafts for years. Many attended Circus Smirkus' summer camp, where coaches helped them learn the arts of clowning, tight-wire walking and stilts. The coaches have their own impressive resumes; some have performed with Ringling Brothers, and others with Cirque du Soleil.

Wright-Sanson, who attends the Waldorf School, signed up for the summer camp after his mom saw Circus Smirkus perform in New Hampshire a few years ago. By then, he'd graduated from just riding his unicycle to doing tricks and jumps on it like he'd seen "extreme unicyclists" do on YouTube videos.

"He's all self-taught," Sanson said.

Camp staffers were so impressed with Wright-Sanson's skills that they told him on the first day of camp that he should audition to be part of the traveling show. He did, and in 2006, he spent his first summer on the road with Circus Smirkus.

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