Friday, November 03, 2017

Big Apple Circus

There are certain humans who seem to be their own species. In the case of circus performers, it would be homo sapiens amazingus. The Big Apple Circus is full of these wondrous folk, flying through the air, bending in ways the body seemingly cannot bend, juggling more balls than seemingly can be juggled, balancing in the air on a thin rope in a seven-person pyramid, zipping around on roller skates on a space barely bigger than a dining room table, and generally defying gravity, the limitations of the human body, and good sense.

Elayne Kramer

The Big Apple's claim to fame is its intimacy, with no seat further than 50 feet from the stage. It's a great way to watch circus acts, although occasionally a little intimidating, as when a contortionist operates a bow and arrow with her feet and you think, what if she slips? (At least your death would make all the websites, papers, and TV news shows.)

But of course it's the performers who risk life and limb, over and over, with grace and style, with strength and agility, and with careful nonchalance. That fact that one act comes from a circus family that has suffered a variety of deaths and serious injuries makes it all the more awe-inspiring--and a little weird too--that here they all are, risking their lives once again.

And while clowns are going through a bad patch, being seen as scary and villainous more than entertaining, the Big Apple clowns, Grandma the Clown and "her comedic sidekick," Joel Jeske, are genuinely funny. And they are particularly enjoyable if you have the great good luck, as I did, to sit near a boy with a delightful, infectious laugh who enjoyed every second of their work.

Of course, what you like or don't like in a circus is a personal thing. I love trapeze work but I found the roller skating duo simultaneously upsetting (the woman's life is in danger through 90% of the act) and pointless--while of course realizing that they are brilliant at what they do! However, I think that it's objective fact rather than opinion that the days of animal acts have passed, and that magnificent creatures such as horses shouldn't be forced to run in small, small circles for our "entertainment." While I have to admit that part of me enjoyed watching them--they are so beautiful--a bigger part thought that it was animal abuse.

If you like circuses at all, if you like seeing humans push and go past physical limitations, if you like grace and wonder, do get yourself over to the Big Apple Circus. There's some miraculous stuff going on there.

  • Anastasini Brothers: acrobats
  • Dandino & Luciana: roller skates
  • Elayne Kramer: contortionist
  • Flying Tunizianis: trapeze
  • Gamal Garcia: juggler
  • Grandma the Clown
  • Jan Damm: Rola Bola (balancing act)
  • Jenny Vidbel: animal acts
  • Joel Jeske
  • Nik Wallenda and The Fabulous Wallendas: tightrope
  • Ty McFarlan: ringmaster
Wendy Caster
(fifth row, press ticket)

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