Carson and Barnes Circus, in the 1960s

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Morning Midway: Monte Carlo Honors Big Top Stars ...


How fair are their judges? I always wondered how fair a panel of circus owners could be, and yet, come to think about it, how fair would any panel — performers, “critics,” or seasoned patrons — be? The Monte Carlo winners, such as I’ve followed them, rarely with consistent attention, have usually struck me as worthy.

Sure, there is always human wiggle room for honest debate: Should Artist A have been awarded the Silver instead of the Gold, or vice versa? Overall, I’m not aware of glaring surprises that raise suspicions of advance fixes or payoffs. But then again, as I’ve said, I do not regularly follow this most prestigious of world circus competitions, nor do I see anywhere near all of the competing acts that appear to have any of my own opinions. Here are this years winners at the 34th Festival International du Cirque:

Gold Clown: Martin Lacey, Jr., big cats, from ENGLAND
Gold Clown: The Shangdon risley troupe from CHINA

Silver Clown: The Flying Michaels from BRAZIL
Silver Clown: Alegria Russian bars with Cirque du Soleil, from CANADA
Silver Clown: Eshimbekov Cossack riders from KURKISTAN
Silver Clown: Petra and Roland Duss, pressenting sea lions, from SWITZERLAND

Bronze Award: Duo Garcia, aerial rocket, from SPAIN
Bronze Award: The Rossyanns, clowns from FRANCE and ITALY
Bronze Award: Sonny Frankello, elephants, from GERMANY
Bronze Award: The Blue Sky Girls, contortionist from CHINA

Why the countries in caps? Always of great interest to me are the points of origin. Being an American, I learned at an early age to respect the term "First Time in America." No surprise that China is stepping up to the podium; rather surprised not to see any Russians in the finals. The United States? We are still what we have always been, at our best (okay, now and then), innovators unbound by fixed traditions in casting world-class circus acts into new performance formats -- some ground breaking -- but rarely up to par in producing them from the ground up.

Most of all, I am heartened that H.S.H. Princess Stephanie of Monaco is dedicating so much passion and intelligent respect to circus art by continuing the legacy established by her late father. After all, is there any form of entertainment more universally shared across all languages and cultures than the magic we together witness in that wondrous circle of miraculous human achievement?

Thanks to Raffaele DeRitis and Don Covington for sending out the word.

Congratulations, Monte Carlo Champions!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

How valid is a "point of origin" if you have never performed there. Is where you were born, a "point of origin?" Or is where you have spent most of your career performing? If your father in law is the agent/director for Monte Carlo, as well as the agent/director for the show you have spent your career on, would there need to be much monetary compensation for a "fix to be in?" Martin Lacey Jr. had his performing debut at Monte Carlo in 1999 and has been on German Krone ever sense. Is where you were born worthy of capital letter's in a world of what is supposed to be achievements? A citizen born in American, carried a British flag at her Monte Carlo moment because the animals were from Great Britain. Martin Lacey's mother who was British but spent the majority of her career in the United States, at her Monte Carlo moment with American animals represented Great Britain. So you see, it is actually just more of the Monte Carlo stretch at legitimacy. No different then the circus creating legends with fables. I believe what it is was exposed very nicely a couple of years ago on Buckles Blog and Circus No Spin.

Showbiz David said...

interesting, and something to mull over. as i said, i have seen few of these acts; they gave the gold, well deserved (in my opinion), to the american juggler Gatto. through connections or sheer talent? you fail to give us your own take on Lacey's act? have you seen it? any examples of acts you believe were falsely feted, others ignored who deserved the gold or silver? I'm not saying you are wrong but how about some examples? ...

Showbiz David said...

p.s. i am well aware that the u.s. has produced some outstanding animal acts, elephants to dogs, but go to most shows and check out where the acts hail from. to me, it makes sense. to me, it is not a conspiracy. what i see too often from other countries is just too too impressive.

Anonymous said...

Nit picking which flag people carry at Monte Carlo is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?
You are correct though, America has historically produced very few top performers and neither has England. Europe has always been the incubator for America's feature acts until work opportunities became scarce here and few Europeans wanted to emmigrate here. Although some Eastern block acts found the going a little easier in the US than in their homelands.
American producers found it easier to fill up the rings with Mexican families, whose acts were mediocre or less, but one family could provide a half dozen acts for a lower price than a single high quality act. The exceptions of Gaona and Carillo prove the rule.
Can you think of any American act today which could compete in Monte Carlo?
Not that the princess is asking my opinion, but they should can the whole country thing and just judge acts on their own merit, without affliation. There might have been a time when foreigners were exotic, but that's not now. Or maybe they could have all American judges, since you KNOW there won't be any acts from here competing and none of the world class acts perform here anymore, so our producers would be more than impartial as judges. I don't think you can use the argument "we used to do that too" at Monte Carlo.

Showbiz David said...

Love your idea about The U.S. atleast being able to provide impartial judges. But, as a top source of talent, don't overlook powerhouse China, now also reaching upward to produce some fine and novel aerial acts as well. America DID send a fantastic Gold Medalist to Monte Carlo a few years back, the Anthony Gatto from Brooklyn, USA, now appearing on Cirque's Kooza.