Postcards from the Circus: Around the World Under the Big Top

Postcards from the Circus: Around the World Under the Big Top

Wednesday, 20 May, 2020

The tradition of the traveling circus is a long and storied one. Even though Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is no more, vibrant circuses — with a focus on storytelling, acrobatics, clever staging, and the preservation of circus history — are creating a new form of dazzling theater all over the world.

In Episode 12 of our podcast The Circus: Found Family and Daring Feats, we talk about the history of the circus and recommend our favorite books that transported us under the Big Top.

Now, let’s go jet setting around the world in the company of some very colorful circus folk. (If you need caramel corn for the journey, we’ve got you covered.)

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Cirque Alfonse — Quebec, Canada

Cirque Alfonse is family-based circus from Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez in the province of Quebec, Canada. Its founding members have all worked with some of the most renowned nouveau cirque companies around the world. The troupe includes professional acrobats, dancers, an ex-skiing champion, and three musicians. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

MysterAct — Quebec, Canada

MysterAct combines illusions, circus arts, technology, imaginary characters, dance, and music to create a fantasy world that takes the audience on an emotional journey. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Les 7 Doigts — Quebec, Canada

Formed in Montreal in 2002, this company has evolved from 7 to 200 performers. Their shows combine amazing stunts with an emotional narrative. The focus is on a stripped-down performance that reveals the people behind the spectacle. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Circus Finelli — California, USA

Circus Finelli is an ensemble of women clowns who draw inspiration from the European circus tradition and American vaudeville stage. They’re known around the world for their physicality, eccentric music, and multi-lingual shows. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

 

Cirque des Voix — Florida, USA

Cirque des Voix combines performers from The Circus Arts Conservatory with Key Chorale, a group of 100+ voices and a 40-piece Cirque orchestra. The show blends music and circus arts under a Big Top in Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

 

Cirkus Smirkus — Vermont, USA

Circus Smirkus is a nonprofit arts and education organization in Greensboro, Vermont. It’s on a mission to the skills, culture, and traditions of the traveling circus by inspiring young people to join the circus. The Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour is the only traveling youth circus in the U.S. Performed under a traditional European-style circus tent, the show includes 80 teen performers, professional circus coaches, and a live band. It travels to 20 towns in New England each summer. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Acrobuffos — New York, USA

Acrobuffos are a duo with an incredible back story. Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone met at a circus in Afghanistan, became engaged to each other while street performing in Scotland, got married in China, and sometimes go home to New York City. Since 2005, they’ve created seven shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 25 countries, headlined at the Big Apple Circus, and were featured on a postage stamp. Their show is ‘wordless comedy’ and combines movement, mime, and props to create atmosphere. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Mother Africa — Tanzania, Africa

This show transports the audience to one of the biggest townships in South Africa: Khayelitsha. Among a stage set of shanties and cardboard stands, jugglers and acrobats tell the story of Africa with singing, dancing, and laughter. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

African Circus Arts Festival — Ethiopia, Africa

In 2015, Fekat Circus organized the First African Circus Festival: 107 African circus artists — from Madagascar, South Africa, Zambia, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Egypt — met and performed on an African stage. The festival was presented free to more than 12,000 in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Giffords Circus — England, UK

Giffords is a retro-style traveling family circus in the south of England. All of the costumes are handmade, and the sets are painted in the barns on the founders’ farm. The show includes violinists, tap dancers, tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, opera singers, magicians, illusionists, gymnasts, and the ‘heart of the Giffords circus’: trick riders on horseback. The circus features a 60-seat restaurant called Circus Sauce. It’s housed in two circus wagons and follows the circus to each location. Each night after the show, three-course meals made from locally sourced ingredients are served on candle-lit oak tables. (Get the Giffords Circus Cookbook.) {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Cirk La Putyka — Czech Republic

Founders Rosťa and Vítek Novák are descendants of the famous Czech puppeteer Matěj Kopecký. Although they have nomadic blood, they founded a bricks-and-mortar theatre in a warehouse in Prague. Their shows combine live music and singing, acrobatics, illusion, and dance to create a rich atmosphere for storytelling. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Collectif Malunés — Czech Republic

Collectif Malunés is a Franco-Belge circus company founded in 2009. It was formed by four young artists — three Flemish and one French — who wanted to live ‘artistically’ on stage and on the street while increasing their circus knowledge. Their shows combine acrobatics and unique staging to tell whimsical stories. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Cirkus Cirkor — Sweden

Cirkus Cirkör is a nonprofit and politically independent organization, founded in 1995 to establish new circus art in Sweden, both artistically and educationally. Cirkus Cirkör’s activities include performances, educational programs for children, adults, and the elderly, with and without disabilities, and events for companies and organizations. The organization also runs Cirkör LAB, a creative development environment with residences for artists and creators from all over the world. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

 

Cirque Starlight — Switzerland

Founded 30 years ago by a tightrope walker, Cirque Starlight is a family circus with rich, emotional performances that combine circus, theater, dance, live music, and song. The company also supports a circus school and circus summer camps for kids. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Moscow State Circus — Russia

The Great Moscow State Circus is the world’s largest stationary circus and was opened on Vernadsky Avenue in 1971. The building has five arenas: equestrian, ice rink, water, illusionist, and light-effect, and the shows — redesigned each year. The staff is more than 500 directors, choreographers, musicians, performers, and stage designers. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Chinese State Circus — China

The shows feature 30 world-class Chinese acrobats, aerial artists, and jugglers tell the story of the legendary Shaolin Warrior, combining the circus tradition with martial arts. Featuring ‘pure and honest perfection in acrobatics’ for a show with ‘no gimmicks, no fakes, and no retakes.’ {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Phare — Cambodia

All profits generated through the circus — ticket sales, refreshments, merchandise, and private performance — support free education, professional arts training, and social support programs of the circus school in Battambang. Phare shows combine dance, theater, original live music, and circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories from recent history, folklore, and modern society. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

circus performers

 

Company 2 — Australia

Company2 is a creative arts company devoted to pushing the creative boundaries of the circus arts. The troupe includes dancers, musicians, circus artists, thinkers, dreamers and makers experimenting with mixed platforms. And the shows are committed to storytelling through live music and movement. {more}

circus performers

circus performers

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Top image courtesy of Cirque Alfonse.

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keep reading

The circus is an enchanted place where people can fly and a big red nose is a happy sight. Where the smell of popcorn and peanuts mingles with sawdust. Where the unimaginable becomes completely possible before our eyes.
This weekend, time travel to a 1920s Texas circus: Pontilliar's Spectacular Star Light Miraculum. Step right up to meet Ruby, the tattooed snake charmer who'll steal your heart while she saves the world.
The enticing aroma and salty-sweet crunch of caramel popcorn is literally the taste of the circus. You can easily make a batch in about half an hour — plenty of time to escape into the magic of 'The Night Circus.'

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