A Circus for Big Kids: Ringling Bros Athletes Soar

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A Circus for Big Kids: Ringling Bros Athletes Soar

by Laurie Winslow Sargent

Legends circus image

A Circus for Big Kids (yes, even me!)

Last night I went to the circus, courtesy of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey (at Raleigh PNC Arena, Feb 4-8, 2015). I was delighted to go but also confess to some initial skepticism. Past circus experiences (with other companies) attended when my kids were small were rather hokey and seedy, with overabundance of cleavage and under-abundance of impressive acts. I recalled battles over buying expensive whirling and flashing toys that vendors continually waved before my preschooler’s eyes. But hey, I couldn’t pass up a night out with hubby, my teen daughter and her boyfriend — and at least they wouldn’t beg for whirling toys.

It turns out, the show was amazing.  We were really all quite stunned by the high level of athleticism. My teen daughter must have said “Whaaaat?!” a dozen times, since as an athlete herself (runner, and a former stunt cheerleader with a flair for flying) she knew how difficult the stunts were. Here’s a taste of what we saw:

We raved at the high level of athleticism among the performers. Athletic older kids, teens and adults can appreciate the work and skill involved in the acrobatic stunts! The performers from various countries offered great variety in their acts.

Amazing Acrobatics

The China National Acrobatic Troupe did stunts on bikes, poles, through stacked circles, and while juggling; the Tuniziani Troupe  trapeze athletics amazed us with triple flips and seeming near misses with the ceiling of the arena. Paulo dos Santos, who at first sight was seen as a sidekick to the ringmaster and clowning around that sometimes emphasized his little person stature, ended up amazing the crowd throughout the evening with his own intense athleticism. Paulo is skilled in the art of Capoeira, (martial arts, dance moves and acrobatics) extremely popular in Brazil. His wife and three children are currently accompanying him on the Legend circuit.

If you see the video below you can get a taste of the acrobatics. (Note, the hanging-hair stunts mentioned in the video were not done last night, most likely due to an accident at a previous event that injured performers.)

Animal Stunts 

The Cossack Riders took horseback riding to the limit with jumps on and off — and crawling under and around — galloping horses. It was quite jaw-dropping.

Lion and tiger tamer Alexander looked as if he might be eaten alive at any moment, surrounded in a netted area by 8-10 tigers and lions — I lost count — until one rolled over for a belly rub. Yet even when several lions kissed him, I couldn’t help but think nervously of Siegfried and Roy (which didn’t turn out so great for Roy). If curious about how a lion tamer gets his start, read about Alexander Lacey whose family “raised more than 11 generations of lions and nine generations of tigers”. Regarding the cats in his own show, Alexander says, “Along with their mothers, we’ve helped raise them since birth. These cats are truly a part of my family.”

The canines of Hans and Maria Klose and were fun to watch, as they eagerly jumped through challenges (apparently in great anticipation of hot dogs!) There were other performing animals as well, including the elephants, llamas, and even barnyard animals in the mix. (See Ringling’s  Animal Care Web Links. )
circus panoramic view

Motorcycle Stunts 20150204_182907

The Torres Family from Paraguay wowed us on eight motorcycles zooming around inside a 16-foot steel globe. It was amazing enough with four, and they kept adding more to the mix.  They describe their technique inside the globe as “very much like what pilots do in an air show.”
 According to ringling.com,”Blowing a whistle and revving their engines to cue one another, each rider embarks upon a set pattern. Once the riders are in motion, maintaining constant speeds (which can reach up to 65 miles per hour) and the distance from one another is critical. Still, when they are inside the globe they are completely focused on where everyone else is and are making constant, micro-second adjustments.”
Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo dos Santos

Even ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson has a story. At age 11 he performed with the world-famous Boys Choir of Harlem, then later was trained classical, jazz, hip hop, and gospel music. He graduated with a degree in voice performance and was named by Barbara Walters one of the ten most fascinating people in 1999. He has also has performed in off-Broadway productions and acted in various commercials, plus does voice-overs.

 A Family friendly show?

This definitely was a family friendly show (with very tasteful costumes) although the ticket expense for children is likely to be a bit prohibitive for families on a budget. If you do take kids, eat first, including sweets if you don’t want them to beg for $15 cotton candy! (Ouch.)

But quite frankly, I think small children are less likely to appreciate the complexity of the athleticism in the performers. I imagine some parents took tired kids home at half-time, missing some of the amazing stunts in the second half, although the first half had plenty of athletic action. A comment I overheard in a ladies’ room stall pretty much said it:

Mom to a preschooler, “What has your favorite part been so far?”

Child: “Da clowns.”

But I was delighted that as a parent of a now-teen, we could still have a delightful family night out. And it made me feel a bit like a kid again.

Can you relate? What are your thoughts on this? I'd love for you to COMMENT.

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