New York’s Home-Grown Big Apple Circus Provides Holiday Delight and Daredevil Thrills
By: Ellis Nassour
The holiday season is upon us – a time for family togetherness, a time to be jolly, merry, and enjoy memorable times. Not a bad time for that trip around the world you’ve worked so hard to save for, is it? Don’t worry about travelers cheques and there’s no standing in long airport screening lines or the need to board ships or gas up the auto. Just head to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park and join The Grand Tour, the 2015 edition and 38th season of New York’s home-grown Big Apple Circus, playing under the heated big top through January 10th.
Set amid world capital tourist attractions, artists assembled from a year-long search from six continents [including North America/USA] perform in Dana Botez’s glitzy and stylish costumes on Maruti Evans’s travelogue set in what is the best BAC show in years.
BAC takes place, European-style, in one huge ring. With no seat more than 50 feet from ringside, The Grand Tour offers every ticket holder an intimate experience. This isn’t to say, closer isn’t better, but there’re seats at affordable prices where everyone can enjoy clowns, juggling, acrobats, daredevil aerialists, domestic and rescue dogs, and magnificent horses.
Four-time BAC ringmaster John Kennedy Kane returns to as host with Joel Jeske, who also wrote the show, and Brent McBeth delivering riots of laugher. Highlights are aerialist Sergey Akimov soaring on silk straps; juggling sensation Alexander Koblikov; ninth-generation circus performer Chiara Anastasini, who knows a thing about shimmying — with hula hoops; and the Dominguez Brothers, who defy gravity, sometimes blind-folded, on the gigantic Wheel of Wonder [some might call it Wheel at Your Own Peril]. There’re also Chinese hand balancers; Africa’s agile Zuma Zuma acrobats; and the Dosov Troupe bursting from a teeterboard and landing stacked several shoulders high.
The U.S.’s Jenny Vidbel, a third-generation circus artist and huge BAC favorite [and an authentic horse whisperer], does double duty. She commands a ring of stunning and curious Arabian steeds [at one point they come to a full stop so close to ringside audiences that they’re tempted by popcorn and cotton candy]. To howls of laughter to warm hearts with high spirits, she and associate Emily McGuire attempt to command a brigade of rambunctious dogs.
There was only one surprising detraction. Audiences are used to outrageous prices for concessions and stuffed toys. Now, you can add pony rides. There’s a pitch about them during the interval and after the show. Parents – and grandparents, cameras in hand, line up with their tots. Granted, the upkeep on these adorable ponies can’t be cheap, but charging $10 for two slow clops around the ring is a shame.
The Grand Tour, under artistic director is Guillaume Dufresnoy, is directed by Mark Lonergan, and choreographed by associate director Antoinette Dipietropolo. The incredible Big Apple Circus Band is under music director Rob Slowik. Will Maitland Weiss is BAC executive director.
Big Apple Circus tickets are $25-$75, with VIP Experience [includes private lounge, open bar, juices and soda, snacks (hot dogs, cotton candy, crudités), coat check, and exclusive facilities] tickets at $135 and $175, respectively. To do some New Year’s Eve circus reveling with champagne (or apple cider), refreshments, goody bags, count-down to 2016, and post-show dancing to the BAC band, tickets for the special performance at 9:30 P.M. are $55-$175 with a VIP package for $250 per person. Purchase at the BAC box office; or online at www.bigapplecircus.org or calling (888) 541-3750 [service fees apply]. The BAC is wheelchair-accessible. For show schedules, group rates, and special event BAC membership information, visit the website.