Monday, August 29, 2011

New Big Apple Circus Boss Wears His Power with Grace, Cool Confidence ... Reveals Shows Ahead ... Sawdust-Stealing Rodents to Join the Cast

New Big Apple Circus boss watches the show in Stamford. Photos by Kathleen O'Rourke/Stamford Advocate

At last, we are starting to see his face, hear his voice, get a feel for his vision. Guillaume Dufresnoy, in public interviews, comes across as suavely confident, an authentic leader with a passion to sustain Big Apple Circus standards and keep each year’s show fresh

“I really want each production to be different from the year before,” he told the Stamford Advocate's managing editor John Breunig last month during the circus’s appearance there.

“This year is all about movement and dance. Next year will be all about imagination and dreams ... it will be set in a fantasy land. The year after that will be a period show set in the 19th century (a little Toby Tyler, please!) ... and the one after that will be contemporary.”

Dream Big!, Dufresnoy’s next opus now in rehearsal in Walden, NY and slated to uncork at Dulles Town Center in Dulles, VA, on September 22, is sporting a slightly enlarged menagerie, in which we make take some heart. Per pithy press copy, they've recruited a “capybara and porcupine to perk up the sawdust party!” (Fancy lingo for rodents)

Sounds like the sort of subtle staging imagination I found, to my high delight, at last season's Dance On!, Dufresnoy's first fully produced effort for Big Apple. Indeed, in that luadable outing, I glimpsed ample reassuring evidence that Paul Binder’s protege is fully up to the task of extending the Binder-Christensen legacy well and wisely into the future, assuming, of course, that the organization can restore some of its lost dates once the show leaves Gotham, and re-energize corporate funding.

Born in Bordeaux, France, Dufresnoy caught the circus bug in his boyhood. By the time he was a young adult, no longer was he looking up at aerialists, but now, one himself, down upon audiences looking up at him. By 32, aching shoulders inspired Guillaume to a career make over. He joined the Big Apple Circus in 1990, performed for only a season or two, and then served as performance director. In 1997, he landed the general manager job. Thirteen years were spent as a “wingman” to Paul Binder.

About that strangely ill-defined recent three-part PBS Documentary that left more than a few of us slightly depressed, said Dufresnoy to Breunig, “They did not make it better or worse than it is ... This is a tough life.”

He likes talking to circugoers to get their feedback, and he watches nearly every show, especially near season’s end when younger artists can start to go dull. “They are kids ... We have to battle to keep them from getting ragged.”

Of particular concern to the new boss is the dominant kiddie demographic so integral to American circus promotion. “What we have not been yet able to convince people is you don’t need a kid to come to the circus. I come from Western Europe, where going to circus is something you do on Saturday night with friends the way you to go the movies or go to the theatre. And that is rarely the case here.”

Big Apple’s new artistic director seems to have his priorities perfectly in order. "You cannot rely on production values and themes to satisfy an audience. You must rely on having great acts. And a great act is a great act is a great act.”

Paul Binder should be proud.

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