From the Center Ring
Spring and circus just seem to go together! Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Legends arrived in the NYC area a month early this season, slated to play Uniondale, Newark and East Rutherford in March following a two-week February run in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Built to Amaze opens the month in North Charleston, and then continues to Cincinnati on its way to the Washington DC/Baltimore area to finish out the month. The single-ringed Super Circus Heroes heads south from Salisbury, Maryland this month with a stop in Chattanooga enroute to three Mississippi dates.
Universoul closed out the month in Atlanta and stops for a four-day stint in Raleigh before launching its extended NYC-area engagement in the Bronx on March 20 with subsequent stops in Brooklyn, Queens and Newark throughout April and May. Featured in this 20th Anniversary Edition are Jean Claude and his strap act, the ZhuKau Troupe on the Russian Swing, the Soul Circus Performing Elephants, Onionhead the Clown and everyone’s favorite Ringmaster Sidekick Zeke.
Big Apple Circus is in Bridgewater, New Jersey through March 16, and then strikes out for its March 25 opening in Boston. Cole Bros. Circus’ 130th Edition (the second longest-running circus in the country) opens March 20 in its hometown of Deland, Florida. Carson and Barnes Circus, featuring Kat, the Pygmy Hippo, hop-scotches across Texas this month, as does another Hugo, Oklahoma-based circus – Kelly Miller. Southern California-bound Circus Vargas plays out March in Mira Mesa, Temecula and San Bernardino.
China’s Peking Acrobats will present a single performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota on March 12. Sarasota’s Sailor Circus is offering weekend trapeze lessons while putting the final touches on its 65th Anniversary Show that opens March 26 and runs through April 5. In the Twin Cities area, Circus Juventas is in the thick of its spring training schedule that runs through April 26. In California, The Great Y Circus, co-sponsored by the Redlands (CA) YMCA, is schooling more than 350 kids in circus skills while prepping for its May performance regimen which usually sells out early. New England’s Circus Smirkus recently announced that it is “going Emerald” in an effort to reduce the size of its self-proclaimed “clown shoe-sized carbon footprint.” The American Youth Circus Organization has announced the formation of the American Circus Educators Association organized to “expand our work that supports circus educators.”
Nowhere is the circus’ popularity more evident than the increasing demand for great circus talent, and even greater circus performances. So much so that former Ringling/BAC/ Vargas Ringmaster Kevin Venardos stepped out of the spotlight to form his own circus-related production company that “strikes an extraordinary balance between a Circus Consulting Service and a Full-Scale Theatrical Production House.” Check it out at www.venardoscircus.com.
A handful of Florida-based animal trainers/presenters are offering the public a chance to get “up close and personal” with animals. Patricia Zerbini’s Two Tails Ranch outside Williston, Florida conducts tours of her elephant farms on a regular basis, featuring her best pachyderm pal Luke. In nearby Ocala, Marcia and Luis Palacio have opened the Best Hay Farm and Petting Zoo to the public.
In Hollywood cinema news, Bill Condon, writer and director of the 2006 musical Dreamgirls that was nominated for eight Academy Awards, has been has been inked to rewrite 20th Century Fox‘s musical film The Greatest Showman on Earth, which will star Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum. The film will highlight Swedish opera star Jenny Lind whom Barnum toured around the country.
On a much smaller scale, independent documentary company Through the Trees Productions is filming “The Church That Ran Away With the Circus.” According to the project’s producer and editors, Marisa Gill, Concetta DeLuco and Jerry Garcia respectively, the film will highlight the exceptionally close ties between St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Sarasota and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during its “winter quarters” years there.
Trapeze artist Miguel Vazquez made circus history when he successfully completed the world’s first quadruple somersault on the flying trapeze in Tucson, Arizona on July 10, 1982. Now, a North Korean flyer named Han Ho Song from the National Circus of Pyongyang completed the world’s first quintuple somersault while performing with the Stardust Circus in Stuttgart, Germany. Some circus folks, however, are calling it an “assisted quintuple” because of the extra boost given by a fellow flyer. Decide for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGH8R3mRzzk (around the 7:00 minute mark).
The Fifth Annual World Circus Day kicks off a month-long celebration March 20 with festivities in Monte-Carlo. At the 38th Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo held in January, American contortionist Sasha Pivaral and Los Angeles street performance artist Robert Muraine took home individual awards. Former Circus Harmony student Renaldo “Junior” Williams and his partner Naomi Pichon won a Silver Medal at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris.
Gary Payne of the Circus Fans Association’s Animal Welfare Committee, which has been instrumental in battling numerous challenges to the circus by animal rights activists, is handing over the Chairpersonship reins to Sarah Conley. Gary is not stepping down, however, but rather stepping up as the new CFA President for 2015-16, and has pledged “to ramp up CFA’s support for Sarah and her entire committee.”
And, speaking of animal rights battles in the northeast, the Boston City Council recently defeated a proposed ban on the ankus as a legitimate management tool for elephants by a vote of 8 to 3 (thanks, in part, to Massachusetts CFA enthusiasts). Councilor-at-Large Michael T. Gaffney saw through the activists’ hidden agenda, noting that banning a circus is just the first move “to have animals banned in other things, such as petting zoos.” District 5 Councilor Gary Rosen said that there were more pressing issues facing Bostonians, adding that “if people object to wild and exotic animals performing at circuses held in the city, then they simply shouldn’t go to them.” Thank goodness for the wisdom of Boston’s straight-thinking council members!