One wonders - how in this modern age of computer enhanced films and 3D amusement park rides can something as old fashioned as a circus survive? The truth is, that the circus - since it invention- has always been in a constant state of change. What started as a trick-riding horse show in London in 1768, went on to add jugglers and clowns in the 1770s, Big Tops and travelling menageries in 1830s, and side shows and circus trains in the late 1800s. And throughout the twentieth century refinements and innovations continued.
One of the most innovative of the new circuses is Montreal based Cirque du Soleil. In this new variation, gone are the freak shows, the motorcycle stunts and most conspicuously - gone are any trace of trained animals. Instead, Creator Franco Dragone has suggested Cirque du Soleil plays off our memories of childhood stories. Dragone writes, "Begin a tale, said the storyteller, and it will tell itself."
Watching the opening parade at Cirque du Soleil, one is carried back, perhaps even beyond our own childhoods, to the childhood of the circus itself - and its dream-like themes. Dragone suggests that "We all have an attic in our minds where our wildest dreams and nightmares impatiently await us. Among the cobwebs spun by our recollections, - toys long neglected still carry the echo of our childhood laughter and tears. In a corner of our memory [we find] Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Cinderella and A Thousand and One Nights." And every act in Cirque du Soleil does seems to resonate with youth: Swing-sets become high-flying trapeze acts, Bicycle stunts become impossible gravity-defying feats and bouncing on the bed becomes a wild band of dare-devil trampoline artists.
In the 1950s, many circuses feared that the death of the circus was imminent. Competition with films, and television seemed too ominous to contend with. But the circus has persevered - and even as the world wide web presented more competition, the circus has prospered - for it seems that as long as there are children - and adults who remember what is to dream as a child - the circus will always call us - and the Big Top will always be there.
Copyright © 2002 by K. Shortsleeve
|Search the transcripts by date or keyword.
Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:19:30 EDT