Perhaps never before has circus performance art — and by this, I am speaking the entire show as a single unit or form of creativity —been given so huge a boost as was yesterday unveiled in Bucharest, Romania. There, a ground breaking event took place when four of “the best circus companies” from Italy, Germany, Russia and Romania, as went a press release, competed for the unprecedented honor of best show.
For the record, Romania's Circus Globas somersaulted off with the Golden Lion Award; Italy's Medrano Casartelli, the Silver; Russia's Nukulin on Ice, the Bronze.
Heralded as “the first edition of the international festival of circus art,” the big top bash appears to throw the focus onto the elements of a performance. Kudos to that! For too long, in my opinion, has the flow of action in and out of a ring from start to finish been overlooked or barely understood. No longer in Bucharest, where a Big Picture focus has the chance to inspire not only a more passionate and educated patronage but an enhanced respect for the importance of artistic direction.
The Continent has now shown the will to bring off what occurs yearly in theatre, film, pop music and television. It’s about time the sawdust ring in all its fascinating aspects was so honored.
So let the big top have its own — blare of trumpets, drum rolls please — Astley Awards! Or, for short, the Aslteys. Or has somebody already thought this up? Named after Phillip Astley, credited with inventing this thing we call or did call circus, I can see an annual awards celebration handing out trophies in a number of categories, some of which would focus attention on the performance itself. Here are some proposed categories:
Best Circus of the Year
Best Paced Production
Best Original Scoring
Best Score Featuring Known Music
Best Thrill Act
Best Comedy Act
Best Ground Act
Best Traditional Circus Program
Best Avant Garde Performance
Best Integration of Theme or Story Line
Best Mix of All Circus Elements
And if in Europe, why not (okay, please be kind and believe) the United States? We too still have some circuses. Ours might be called the Johnnys. My rationale: Both John Ringling and his nephew, John Ringling North were celebrated international talent scouts and the younger John achieved fame in elevating three-ring performance art standards
These annual Johnnys might be determined by surveys sent out from an organization such as the CFA or perhaps a periodical like Ernest Albrecht’s analytically inclined Spectacle magazine. The problem is, how do you find voters who have seen all of the circuses during the current season? No problem on Broadway or at the movies. Under the big tops spread far and wide, a big problem. Yes, I can hear some of you saying --- You Tube.
A Royal Ring Toast, Romania, to your first International Festival of Circus Art!