Monday, October 12, 2015

A Really Big Show

October is a BIG Birthday month in our family.  One of the ways we celebrated this year was to go to the circus.  Granddaughter #1 just turned FIVE, so we were all the "right" age. 
There were wandering salesmen hawking cotton candy, popcorn, sno-cones and battery operated razzle-dazzle toys before the show.  You could get a hat filled with a bag of cotton candy... $14.  My smart daughter in law bargained to get JUST the cotton candy, with no hat for half price.                            To entertain everyone before the official start of the show, a cadre of clowns showed off their jump-rope skills.  I was glad we'd chosen the DCU center in Worcester rather than the larger TD Gardens in Boston... as it was smaller and we felt like we were right in the middle of the action.
Then came the traditional opening parade. I liked that two important symbols were featured together:  The flag and Ella (of course) the Elephant.  AND, the audience actually sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Of course there were acrobats of many nationalities and specialties.  Cyclists came first. 
Nobody fell over.  Amazing! 
 By far the LOUDEST part of the show was a phalanx of motorcycles which zoomed into this sphere, idled and then began tracing circles at every imaginable angle.  Simultaneously.  At one point there were EIGHT cyclists merged into their orbits.  Made merging onto a turnpike look like child's play.
Then they did it the dark, with a little help from black lights and strobes.
By the time the horses and their riders performed, I was pretty overwhelmed which meant that I didn't get any great pictures.  They horses definitely ran like the wind (with the help of an angled floor surface to counteract the centripedal forces), as did their riders who jumped on, off, stood on their backs and again, didn't fall over.
 Sometimes they picked up additional riders.  I don't think any of their shoes had glue on them, either.
  Grand-daughter was particularly enthusiastic about the motorcyclist in PINK, who did, stereotypically, turn out to be a girl!  With pink and black chevron leathers, who wouldn't be impressed?

I like cats of every size.  Even though I've been to the circus more than a few times, I was surprised to see lions and tigers together.   I couldn't tell if the cranky ones were "acting" or were actually cranky.  The tamer didn't seem at all concerned and kissed several of them on the nose.
The ringmaster made a point of mentioning the RBB animal sanctuary in Florida(especially their elephant programs), and teaching that  the "acts" were based on behaviors natural to the animals.  The handlers didn't use whips or yelling the way I remember from years past, but had a gentle hand with their prods and lots of verbal praise.I appreciated that information even if the protesters outside of the arena didn't. 

I have a friend in Hollywood who is a professional musician.  I remember he was pleased to play for the circus at least one season.  I think it's partly because the gigs don't start at 11 pm, there are no smokers or drunks and the music is relatively easy.  But this group was certainly not sloppy.  They were well rehearsed (and amplified and backed with recorded loops and DJ type short cuts.  I think my friend "only" had to wear a tuxedo, and not a wild, brilliant vest.

There were several acts in a section called "Two by Two" which involved animals you DON'T think of as circus animals.  Two enormous pigs, for example, substituted for obstacles and hurdles for the dogs and goats(!)  
There was quite a gasp from the crowd when the trainer released a couple of kangaroos to hop in circles over banners.  They, too moved so fast it was hard to get good pictures.
 The dog acts always please me.  They looked like they were having a good time.
I don't think you can get Llamas to "do" much.  They were exotic and beautifully brushed, but mostly they stood or sad and let other creatures leap over them.
Both species of goats, however, were clearly game to climb, jump and interact.

 The donkey might be more closely related to the Llamas, in that he didn't "do" much.

 "I never saw a horse with wings before," said Darling Granddaughter.

 As usual, the elephants were iconic and the ringmaster explained the purpose of the behaviors in their act when out in the wild:  Reaching high branches and leaves, digging holes in mud, etc.  Glad to know that there's a reason elephants do head stands!  If you want to see elephants in the circus, you must attend before 2018, when Ringling Bros. et al has promised to retire ALL their elephants to Florida.  I've been reading E.O. Wilson's book on Biodiversity and hope that elephants thrive... in captivity as well as in the wild.
 It was a grand day!

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