October 9, 2005
So Ksenia and I went to the circus yesterday! A coworker had an emergency trip so wanted to sell 2 great seats to Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's at the Fleetcenter. (Actually it's not the Fleet Center, but the TD Banknorth Garden, and I heartily applaud the billboard that says "Go ahead, call it The Garden again"...a breath of fresh air in a world of call them "LEGO bricks" and not "LEGOs" and the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim) Although the full, post-merger name of the circus is a bit much, I'm always glad to see the "Barnum" in there, given his connection to my alma mater Tufts University.
I was wondering what the show would be like in a post Cirque-de-Soleil world, and also how it would stack up to my childhood memories. It started slow...the clowns' crowd warmup seemed a little pathetic, frankly, but once it kicked into gear...wow. It is a tremendous show. (I was surprised the place wasn't more packed...if you're interested you could easily get tickets still. Not much publicity around here...actually I remember seeing last year's billboards (different "Tour", judging by the website) but nothing this year.) A grand event, some decent "theming" going on, a bit of sensory overload, sometimes a bit more focused...nice.
There seemed to a few glitches: a slightly flubbed highwire jump (nothing with a dramtic fall, though) and two times needed for the "sway-poll" switch, some feisty lions (I think they aborted one pose thing halfway through), and I think a motorcycles-in-the-stell-ball-cage finale that they kind of called off unceremoniously. Still, it was a great time, more of a spectacle than the artsier and more-intimate circuses can pull off. Ksenia thought it held its own against the Russian circuses, grander in some ways, lacking in a few others.
Far and away the most amazing thing was a bit from "Upside-Down World" where they have this little 2 person tableau, a nice domestic scene, completely upside-down (or is it umop-episdn ?). The two performers are attached to the platform apparently only by their feet, and whether it's a special form of velcro, or magnets or what (they did seem to have to take baby steps but otherwise had good mobility) I just don't know...and then they do some clever bits playing with their predicament, juggling, tryingto pour a drink...
Of course, being a geek, I was as amazed by the sheer logistics of the set build-ups and tear-downs as by the performers. I was never really "crew" for anything at my highschool, but I the precision and effeciency of the folks dressed in black, along with the cleverness of the staging, was really something.
(Oh, by the way, don't be intimidated by the weirdly formal "NO BAGS/CAMERAS/AUDIO" (No Audio? What, it's a silent circus?) on the tickets. Lots of people take pictures and they don't seem to make a fuss about bags, at least small handheld ones. Even the Ringling site mentions non-pro photos are ok, depending on the policy of the site they're at.)
Passage of the Moment
The circus is the only ageless delight that you can buy for money. Everything else is supposed to be bad for you. But the circus is good for you. It is the only spectacle I know that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream. The big cats do things no cat would ever do. You can see them jumping effortlessly over Mr. Konyot's head instead of making that unbelievable low rush they close with in the dusk when the female lion shows her cubs the way to kill.
--Ernest Hemingway, writing in the "Circus Magazine and Program" for the 83rd Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey...the Ringling Website has some great hidden gems like that.