Tuesday, October 25, 2016

running away with the circus

I love circuses.

But you already know that, if you have been loitering in these parts for very long. I have even related the tale that when I was in the sixth grade, I was positive I would now be a circus owner (another opening; another show).

I'm not. But I am a circus enthusiast. Especially, Mexican circuses -- circuses that have a character of their own.

In the eight years I have lived here, I have tried to see every circus that comes to town. I missed a few. But I have seen enough of them to know they are worth every peso for admission. Just as long as you are not expecting Barnum and Bailey or Cirque du Soleil.

It has been almost a year since the last circus was in town. There is a good reason for that. Last July Mexico enacted a law banning the use of exotic animals in circuses. No more elephants, tigers, zebras, lions, llamas, or the usual menagerie one expects to see in the center ring. There was some concern that the era of Mexican circuses was dead.

This is not the place to debate the wisdom of that law. It is now the law under which circuses operate. One direct result, though, was one of the worst photographs I have ever seen of a gully outside of Mexico City filled with the carcasses of lions and tigers that had been shot because they were too expensive to maintain without bringing in revenue. An unintended consequence of what was purportedly a humane treatment law.

The Atayde circus has been in the area for over a week with its last performance in Melaque last night. They will pull up stakes and be on their peripatetic way to Puerto Vallarta.

After dinner at Magnolia's, Ed, Roxane, and I decided to top off our evening with front row seats. I had seen the same circus here two years ago (another circus post), and thought it would be interesting to see it without its animal acts -- which were outstanding.

The best adjective for the new show is "pared down." What had once been a large cast is now a group of five performers -- with a few walk-ons and technicians. But smaller, in this case, was not bad.

There were the usual acts: tight rope walker, clowns, foot juggler, strong man acrobat, lady on a hoop, a child dressed as a cartoon character whose sole talent was to shake hands with the children in the audience, and (my favorite) the silk flyer.*

The five main cast members carried the show in various roles. The tight rope walker-silk flyer was also a clown -- and sold cotton candy during the intermission of the two hour show.

I missed the animals. I know all of the arguments that the animals were not treated as if they were pampered soccer players. Instead, they lived in conditions almost equivalent to those experienced by incarcerated humans.

That does not change the fact that I have always been impressed with their performances. In Mexico, we will have to be satisfied with the paintings on the circus entry way.

The only animal exception in this show was an anaconda. (My neice Kaitlyn would have loved seeing it.) The silk flyer adopted the theme of Tarzan in his act-- a rather clever, if not very original, adaptation.

After he had finished swooping over our heads in his underwear, he brought out a large anaconda with the help of his three Tarzan girls. Members of the audience then volunteered to hold Tarzan's snake.

That was the act. Hefting a reptile. It almost made me nostalgic for a poodle in a tutu.

With the exception of the heat and humidity captured in the big top, the night was a success. After all, the three of us have seen far more funky circuses in town.

What I did learn is that Mexican circuses should be able to survive the big cat massacre. Kids of all ages come to the circus to enter a world of magic. Where things unimaginable can be admired.

Cirque du Soleil was a pioneer of the "no animal" model. And last night's performers have slipped into it without losing the spark of why they are entertainers.

I will keep attending the circuses as long as they gypsy their way through our villages. Feeling like a kid again is reward enough for me.

And then there is that anaconda.

* -- I wish I had more photographs to share. At the beginning of the show, the Big Voice announced photography was prohibited. So, I stowed my camera -- forgetting what country I was in. Throughout the first half of the show a large portion of the audience had their camera phones out flashing and clicking away.


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