Contemporary circus, the kind without a tent or animals, has made its way to New York.
There’s Cirque du Soleil every time you turn around. There’s the Broadway musical “Pippin,” with its addition of zero-body-fat tumblers. And City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage has just concluded its first International Contemporary Circus Festival, a series of free shows in public spaces.
Along the way, I’ve crabbily dismissed it as a trend. It seems, however, that while I’ve been rolling my eyes, circus technique has been evolving in ways that are increasingly connected to the performing arts.
That, at least, is the message coming from the circus folks. Last week, the 6-month-old advocacy group Circus Now (which has no headquarters and is run by volunteers) led a half-day seminar in Manhattan for journalists, circus practitioners and arts presenters.
I attended mainly because I couldn’t imagine what a circus-advocacy group would look like or what they would possibly have to say. I hoped they would be carnies evangelizing the artistic merits of juggling.
No such luck. Circus Now is led by a few well-groomed individuals who ran an informative series of short talks, followed by question-and-answer sessions. Its national director is a Fulbright recipient, Duncan Wall, who wrote “The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey Into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present.”
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