Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunday Morning with Henry Ringling North: The Greatness That Was Codona

"Again I say without fear of contradiction that Codona was the greatest flier of all time. Though he was not the first to do a triple somersault from the flying trapeze to the hands of his catcher, Lalo Codona, he did it better than anyone before or since. Arthur and Antoinette Concello both did the triple later, but they were never able to emulate Alfredo's apparently effortless style. Indeed, that word -- style -- was the mark of Codona's greatness. Whether in the most difficult feats or a simple pirouette from the catcher back to the bar, his form was as classic as Nijinsky's in ballet. When he caught the bar he seemed merely to touch it weightlessly, and when he flew through the air it was as though he were moving in his natural element. Even if he missed and fell to the net, it was gracefully done."

-- from his and Alden Hatch's book, Circus Kings, 1960.

There was a time in this country, and how well I remember it, when no circus act could excite, enthrall and satisfy an American audience quite like the flying trapeze -- even the most fundamental of troupes turning the passing leap. Americans together leaned forward on the edge of their seats, smiling brightly, attentively, ready to be taken on the greatest of all big top rides.

I'm not sure exactly why, but that majestically commanding moment seems to have long past us by.

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