Time to play taps for single traps?
For a spell of maybe 20 to 30 years, the Felds let it go, and for probably good reason. The aerial ballet, brought to its maturity under John Ringling North, had turned stale and redundant.
Lately, this potentially enchanting form is reasserting its value to the show.
Item: Ringling of late is carving out some wonderfully inventive multi-aerial displays, either intended as aerial ballets or, by accident, taking on their form. The more creative they are, the more welcome.
Item: One of the highlights of this season's Cole Bros Circus of the Stars is its aerial ballet. Like what the Felds are giving us. Johnny Pugh, the same, has the space and he is filling it in a number of ways not uniformly fixed. In fact, the more varied the movements of the individual aerialists, the more interesting are they to watch. You could argue, but what is anybody doing up there that amounts to much? I'd answer, altogether, especially with a variety of movements, their combined efforts create a most pleasing kaleidoscope of poetry in motion.
Item: in the confines of one ring, John Ringling North II offers his four North Starlets, and although they can't compete with the wider spread of action offered on Ringling or Cole, they, too, offer audiences something above the ring decidedly more enchanting than perilous, which may be why the aerial ballet, when presented with inventive flair, may come to actually replace the older era "daredevils." Actually, circus daredevils seem to be on the wane, thanks to their secured counterparts hooked to mechanics whose allusions to danger aloft simply don't fly.
This is my guess: Over the past 20-30 years, as a younger generation took to the fabrics (aka: webs, silks), much of their solo work simply did not generate sufficient excitement. Then came the duos, prominently if I am correct, from China, and also coming out of Cirque du Soleil, who combine strong athletic connections with lovely romantic imagery. They fill the air, unlike the nouveau practitioners of the "static trapeze." In this sense, they, working what they call the "sensual silks, have helped us find a viable new flight pattern back into the air by way of adding more bodies to the display. The result: a new day for the airborne ensemble.
It's the creative staging that is making the difference, setting apart what's new from what had become too predictable and passe. In addition, this less-adventurous form gives audiences a far less hazardous vision, which I suspect is that they have grown to desire.
Is it time to blow final taps for the single traps? For those flyers who rely on lifelines, yes. The safety wires render their routines false, theatrically interesting at best. Without risk, why the wide swinging arcs? Why the sudden dives away from the bar?
In 1948, Barbette had the girls performing on a dazzling array of aerial rigs in his Monte Carlo Aerial Ballet.
In 2011, the Felds set a consortium of Asians into the air, flying on straps, and the effect was perfectly pleasing. It was novel. Different, Enchanting.
What more can one ask of the aerial ballet? Heck, it could soon become one of the most awaited-for items on the program.