Thursday, June 09, 2011

European Circuses

Years ago, when we lived in Holland, we planned a leisurely trip to Italy. We rented an apartment in a quiet little town and planned to spend the week taking long leisurely rambles through the Tuscan countryside. Unfortunately, every day we were there it rained. Or snowed.

Desperate for something to do, we went to The Great American Circus with Alberto Togni. Despite the name, there was exactly one American performer, a desperately-homesick clown from Philadelphia on his first circus tour after graduating from Clown College. He attached himself to our family, chatting with us while distractedly making balloon animals for the clamoring Italian children around him.

We loved The Great American Circus and its two rings: stunning acrobats, camels who wouldn't do what their trainer said, fun conversation with the clown.

Shortly after we arrived here in Clermont-Ferrand, posters went up for Cirque Pinder. We had to go.

This circus was even smaller than The Great American Circus--just one ring and, by my count, thirty performers. The acrobats were still breathtaking (at least for those of us who are suckers for that kind of thing) and the camels were better-trained (though I'm not sure camel acts are ever going to be the highlight of a circus).

No Americans, but we heard lots of some Slavic tongue. And David earned a huge smile from an usher when he accidentally mixed his French with Bosnian.

We got to wander among the temporary streets created by the circus performers' trailers. This homey little spot made us wonder what it must be like to make your home on the road.

They may lack the polish and gleam of Ringling Brothers or the sophsticated wit of Cirque Soleil, but there is something charmingly homespun, and perfectly suited to a five year old and seven year old, in traditional European circuses.

Exactly the kind of circus you might imagine running away to join.

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