Big Apple Circus: Explodes with WOW! Acts and a Latino Beat
By: Ellis Nassour
November 20, 2019: The Big Apple Circus is back with its blue and white Big Top planted in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, playing through February 2. This 42nd edition is also one of the best ever, crammed with acts that will elicit howls, WOWs, and gasps – and one act that will not only have you on the edge of your seat but also gasping in disbelief.
Our very own home-grown Big Apple Circus is a cultural gem, renowned for its intimate European one-ring style with no seat further than 50 feet from the action in a climate-controlled environment. The show is set against a huge backdrop of New York City and the opening number, introducing the cast, is Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”
Veteran circus entrepreneurs and artists Cecil MacKinnon and her Harvard-educated son Jack Marsh are the edition’s artistic directors. Their goal was to “mount a dazzling show with unique and astounding human feats aimedat revitalizing the circus for modern-day audiences while maintaining the circus’ core foundation of family, legacy, and creativity.” With an extraordinary cast and show that boasts one showstopper after another, they’ve succeeded a thousand-fold.
There’s been a long-standing tradition of inclusivity and diversity, along with superb production values – in addition to top-notch and award-winning talent from around the world. In a bit of a surprise the show has a decidedly Latin and soul/funk beat, led by Brooklyn‘s personality-plus Storm Marrero as ringmistress. Another Brooklynite, Amy Gordon, who’s traveled the globe entertaining in six languages, provides comic and often bawdy relief costumed as a pigeon.
Early in the show, there’s an inspiring bit of diversity with the hand-balancing and contortion act, Duplay Mao Na Roda (Four hands and two wheels), of tattooed, muscled Alan Pagnota and small, slim wheelchair-bound (as a result of congenital arthrogryposis) Rafael Ferreira, who stuns with the strength of a Samson.
One of the eagerly-looked forward to annual treats of BAC is New Yorker Jenny Videl’s outstanding display of rescued stallions. The void left by her absence this season is filled by Caleb Carinci and Renny Spencer’s daring trick riding on two horses.
A sure-fire way to delight children of all ages in a circus is to bring on the a boisterous rescue dogs, but this BAC goes a different route: a multi-talented, extraordinarily well-groomed set of nine rescue fluff balls catastically somersault, walk on their hind legs, dive from high places, leapfrog, and roll barrels. They’re presented, as they were as finalists and audience favorites on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, byUkrainian mother/daughter duo Maryna and Svetlana Savitsky.
Members of the Aliev Troupe defy gravity with balancing feats up and down the Russian barre. What’s a circus without jugglers? Juggling Association Gold MedalistKyle Driggs fills the bill not only dexterously managing 10 hoops but also a slew of umbrellas.
The era of showgirls in skimpy costumes spinning on ropes around three rings is long gone. Instead, we have voluminous silk straps. Here, introducing a brief bit of sexiness, there are stunning blondes Maryna Tkachenko and Tetiana Yudina spinning into the upper reaches of the Big Top in jawdropping aerial acrobatics.
The antics of the Lopez Troupe, featuring siblings Johan, Jonatan, and Zuliedy, in their outstanding act balancing themselves on the taunt high wire brought such a hush in the tent executing their bicycle pyramid you could hear a pin drop.
There’s always been a thrill act in circuses. In Ringling’s last seasons, sadly the show became more of a dare-devil extravaganza than circus, with the finale being someone being shot out of a canon or dangerously running inside and outside, sometimes blindfolded or jumping rope, the gigantic steel Wheel of Death. The latter routine has really been overexposed to the point of being blasé, but, in such an intimate setting with a wheel virtually hovering over you at 25 miles an hour, Jayson Dominguez certainly knows how to revitalize the heart stopping thrills.
It’s no surprise to save the best for last. It’s the thrill/daredevil act that will be hard to top. The entire Aliev Troupe presents a see-it-to-believe-it trapeze and balance beam act that is by far one of the most sensational ever. Amid a haze of talcum powder [to keep their hands dry], the stunningly-costumed men and women performed absolutely mindboggling somersaults, feats, and leaps soaring through the air off a complex contraption into the arms of catchers that the audience gasped in disbelief.
The 42nd Edition of the Big Apple Circus has live music, composed by award-winning writer, performer, and multi-instrumentalist Ada Westfalland Janine Delwarte. Wages Argott, is music director. The vibrant and colorful costumes are by Tony Award nominee Emilio Sosa. Lighting is by Jesse Alford.
BAC is continuing to honor the essential and iconic characteristics that has set it apart for four decades, with multiple community outreach programs. Circus of the Senses, December 5th and 6th at 11 A.M., will offer enhanced inclusive experiences for deaf, blind, and low vision audiences. The 75-minute performances, with all tickets at $10, feature ASL interpretation, live audio description through infrared headsets, pre and post show experiences, and large-print programs in Braille.
Also on December 5 at 5:30 P.M. BAC will present a unique and completely immersive experience where audiences will enjoy a three-course dinner blindfolded, followed by a fully-guided, audio-described full performance. Tickets are $150.
In the way of community outreach, BAC offers special performances with tickets at $10 for every seat to underserved schools and community groups. In addition, there’s a study guide highlighting both CORE and STEAM science, history, and geography curriculums.
Tickets are $35 – $195 for VIP ringside tickets and pre-show and intermission snacks in a special lounge. Purchase at the BAC box office at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park and at www.Ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000. For more information and show schedules, visit www.bigapplecircus.com.
Big Apple Circus production photos by Matthew Murphy