Sunday, March 19, 2017

Big Top Bits: Melha Shrine on Elephants Return ... Montreal Disdain on Animal acts ... Don Stacey on Monte Carlo Highlights ... Paul Binder ’s Silence on New Big Apple Circus Owners ...

 And you thought the elephants were on their way out?

Not so fast.

Come early May up West Springfield, Mass way,  Melha Shriners to bring back the Big Foots, after going only one year without them and suffering a big loss in patronage. Make that over 25% fewer spectators, not to mention those who demanded refunds after learning program had no animals.

Cheering applause, please, for Melah’s fearless circus chairman, Al Zippen, our stand-in Barnum for the moment.  He telling AP that, minus performing pachyderms, the 2016 show suffered its first loss in its 75 year history.   What the public was offered instead, something with a theme called  “circus with a purpose,“ apparently purposed itself into irrelevance.   When will the classroom be once and for all run off the lot?

Six thousand five hundred fewer ticket buyers last year helped bring them to their sawdust senses.  “The first year we lost money,” said Zippne.  “We went in the hole,” to the tune of $65,000.

What gives the story legs is that the Shriners are behind it.  And as one Temple goes, so, too, may others in time.  Know why?  I think it’s adults wanting their children to be exposed to the magical inspiration of how animals can be taught to interact with human kind and with each other.

Montreal mouthing off again: Nothing like being lectured to in times of storm and stress by the poohbahs of the age of big top enlightenment. In this scintillating instance, allow me to quote Cavalia’s founder Normand Latourelle, on the subject that dares not speak its name in the sacred environs of all-human circus land to the North.  Speaking with Craig’s Chicago Business,  claimed Latourelle, “To get elephants and lions and tigers to perform, you have to abuse them ... You have to train them using fear, with whips.  So they are always either chained or caged or scared.”

Compared to which, of course Latourelle’s pampered horses enjoy, it would appear, Waldorf-Astoria stables.  In the words of the reporter taking it all down, they spend only  “half the performance unencumbered by saddles, riders, bits or reins.” Might their employment package also include a daily massage and coiffure?  And, per chance, do they also enjoy the right to put in for time off?  To have final say in contract renewals?  I can’t help but wondering what sort of hidden hypocrisy might lurk behind such precious self-superiority.

Onto the sanity, the courage and the greatness of Monte Carlo’s embracement of World circus: UK’s  Don Stacey, with little patience for a few ho-hum entries on this year’s bill, yet has ample accolades to offer the stand-outs, he sharing his sharply discriminating views on the latest festival from Monaco in Circus Report, in a three-installment, of which the first two have been printed: Among some of his favorites, from part 2:

* From Russia’s Trussin teeterboard troupe, one member turning a quintuple somersault onto a mattress, another, a triple on one stilt!
 * The Quebecois couple of Alexandre and Emilie with a “thrilling aerial cradle number.”
* A Swiss group, The Holmikers, on parallel bars with “superb comedy acrobatics.” In Stacey’s opinion, a Gold should have been theirs.  Only a Bronze would it be.
 * Upside down walker Alex Michale, from Brazil, among a few acts winning standing ovations.
* A Noah's Ark from Circus Charles Knie, presented by Marek Jama contained — how this tickles me to read — Camels, Llamas, a Kangaroo, four zebras, and "five horned beasts of burden comprised of a zebu (what’s that?) Watsui, and a Hungarian cow.”

I envy anybody who can make it over there in the bitter cold of winter.

Paging Paul Binder!  Is he anywhere in the tent?  I’ve been following Paul’s’ blog, to see what he has to say about the sale of the show he founded. About those who bought it in bankruptcy.    Hoping to learn that he and Michael Christensen may play a central role on the artistic end.  So far, only silence on Paul’s blog.  I think the new owners risk a precarious road ahead if try a radical break from well-established Big Apple Circus traditions and the company’s special relationship with New Yorkers.   What does this show really need?  Tight budgetary control of the kind I doubt it has ever had, even if this means giving up the Lincoln Center date.

END RINGERS: Circus Historical Society holding its 2017 convention in July in DC, part of the agenda to take in a Smithsonian circus themed exhibit on the National Mall ... Sarasota Ring of Fame plaques, this year, to Henry Ringling North, Dora Fostser (“Rogana”), Alen Bloom, Reggie Armour, the Pedrolas, and the horse Starless Night ... Sing to me, oh blessed pig!  That would be pot-belied Oink, with Cruzin Grump’s Pork Chop Revue at Carden International ...  Also on the Carden card, Ryan Easley’s tigers ... At the Met Museum of Art in NY through the next year, Seurat’s Circus Sideshow features two paintings and 16 drawings by the famed French artist, augmented by scores of sideshow paintings by other artists ... LATE BREAKING:  Disney World dumps Cirque du Soleil

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