First big top to take the town: Big Apple Circus, on February 1
This is a story that impresses. That makes me feel good about our own U.S. circus scene.
Especially do I take heart, considering the dismal plight of the "traditional" circus in, of all places, the place were it was invented -- Great Brittan. Over there, big tops enlivened with animal acts have virtually all vanished into oblivion. Into the history books. The Brit scene from afar feels strangely impotent.
This awesome Atlanta action happened a few season ago, and it's gonna happen again, when Ringling-Barnum, Big Apple, and UniverSoul hit the town on overlapping dates. Last time they converged, they were joined by a fourth, the upstart outsider from Montreal named Cirque du Soleil.
UniverSoul Circus hip hops in on February 9.
Call it The Atlanta Professional Circus Festival, or, if better, The American Professional Circus Festival, herein named and offered for immediate use by yours truly. So nice to be able to drop the word "professional" with pride, confidence, and not a little smug satisfaction. I've had my fill of the academics lecturing me on the "circus arts." Telling me, for example, how today as opposed to the terrible past, women -- yes women -- actually perform in the rings and are no longer -- Surprise! -- relegated to the demeaning status of scantly clad prop assistants for male stars.
We have so many "amateur" or "youth" or "international" circus festivals around the world. We have so many obscure new experimental troupes, many of them barely ever reported. Here, in the Bay Area, every other year, I learn that the "center" of a new circus movement is happening right here under my own eyes, in Oakland, of all places (competing for bragging rights, it would appear, with San Francisco) watched, I suppose, by a few dozen souls, friends of the fledgling troupes. Down in some warehouse along a seedy stretch of town.
Ringling-Barnum goes to work on February 13
So, how refreshing it is that three viably commercial circus companies, all of them actively creative in one way or another, are still Out There. Still -- now isn't this interesting -- all of 'em, thank you, daring to present live performing animal acts. Of some sort.
No, go to Atlanta and see for yourself.
Show Schedules for the Atlanta Professional Circus Festival:
Big Apple Circus (celebrating its 35th anniversary), Legendarium: February 1-18
Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, Dragons: Feb. 13-18
UniverSoul Circus (celebrating its 20th anniversary), US: February 9-26