Monday, October 29, 2018

Renew your faith in humanity, at the circus

I love the circus. More, maybe, than most adults. I did, after all, spend a summer at circus school, in San Francisco, after my junior year and in college, I took a theater intensive in "post-modern clowning." So I may be biased, yet it's difficult for me to imagine someone not loving the circus, provided that person has a pulse.

 Of all the circuses in all the world, the Big Apple Circus is my favorite. I've ben going there since I was a child, and for a number of years when my two older kids were little, I used to take them every year. Then my little one was born and with three young kids to care for, ambitious endeavors like days at the circus were temporarily suspended. It took me six years to get my mom-of-three sea legs, but finally, I decided to take all three kids to see the Big Apple Circus. 

My older kids, who remembered the fun, were excited and piqued my little one, Terza's interest. She's never been but was sold after watching a few clips on Youtube and hearing the words, "cotton candy."

Then we got her under the big tent and her excitement blossomed into something bigger, something so big is it almost un-nameable. Because what do you call the emotion you experience when it feels like your head it going to pop off from shock and awe and anticipation? What do you call it when you are gasping, then laughing, then screaming at full volume in a tent full of people,  "NO! NO! I CAN'T BELIEVE--OH MY GOD! THIS IS INCRED--ARE YOU SEEING THIS! SHE DID IT!"

That's what happened to Terza about two minutes into the overture. It's what happened to all of us. It's what always happens at the circus. This one was particularly exciting, I thought, with lots of fresh, modern, seen-here-for-the-first-time acts like horizontal juggling and a guy who clibed a free-standing ladder and a female ringmaster. 

But this year, in addition to the thrill and wonder I always feel, I felt something else. There was a new ingredient in the mix of emotions I experienced. Maybe it's because, since the last time I went to the circus, about five years ago, the whole world has seemed to change. Maybe it's because every time I so much as glance at the headlines of newspapers, I can't help but feels like things are scarier, darker, increasingly demoralizing of late. Whatever the reason, at the circus this year, the amazement I felt had another function. It renewed my faith in humanity. Before my unbelieving eyes, in act after act, I saw something impossible become possible. That's powerful. That's hope-renewing. 

When I saw the incredible Ammed Tuniziani let go on his trapeze bar and do four perfect somersaults before seamlessly catching the arms of another man waiting there, I thought, The impossible is possible. 

When I saw "Ironwoman" Virginia Tuells fold herself into a backbend, in heels, and support the weight of her husband as he rose to a perfect handstand on her concave stomach, I thought, The impossible is possible. 

When I saw the aerial artist Ekaterina Stepanova. hang by her feet off the feet of her partner Valeriy, who-knows how many feet in the air above my head, I thought, The impossible is possible. 

That's what the circus reminds me. That's why I go. 

My kids go for the cotton candy. So if that's your thing, it works too. 

The Big Apple Circus is in town til January 27 and you can get tickets here. You literally won't believe your eyes. In a a good way. Now, many things make you feel that way?