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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is Ringling's show still 'the greatest'?


Unlike other circuses, Ringling Bros. has live animals, including elephants and more.

by:Théoden Janes

From: Charlotteobserver.com

Friday, Feb. 03, 2012

In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to believe Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's famous claim: that its circus is "The Greatest Show on Earth."Ringling might even have difficulty convincing certain people this is the greatest show to land in Charlotte, which has hosted two major Cirque du Soleil productions in the past 10 months and welcomed the ambitious, equestrian-focused Cavalia in 2010.Yet here it is again, back like clockwork for its annual five-day winter stop at uptown's Time Warner Cable Arena, trotting out its typical cast of characters: clowns, dancers, daredevils, elephants, horses, tigers - this time using an electricity theme and branding the show "Fully Charged."And you know what? It really is a darn good show.


Ringmaster Brian Crawford Scott joins the parade at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. PHOTOS BY ROBERT LAHSER

Truth be told, I think part of what's happening here is that Cirque du Soleil has been seen by so many people, it has forced Ringling Bros. to elevate its game by coming up with stunts and daredevil acts on par with Cirque's.So you'll see aerialists rolling up into the air on straps, swinging, somersaulting, plummeting before stopping suddenly just inches above the floor. You'll see two big-bodied Mongolian strongmen doing yoga-style partner poses that would present a challenge for contortionists one-third their sizes. The show's finale, in fact, seems ripped from Cirque du Soleil's playbook: eight acrobats zipping through a series of dizzying tumbling passes on a power


These folks are all as talented as those I've seen in Cirque, and yet it is the more traditional circus acts that I was most wowed by during Wednesday's show.The first was the high-wire troupe. I won't spoil the surprises, but I will say they don't use safety cables and look so natural up there that it almost seems like what you're seeing has to be an illusion. (It's not.)The second was the "Twin Turbines of Terror," featuring two brothers who jump, leap and flip atop steel wheels that are rotating on a giant pendulum. When one of the brothers performed a front flip as the wheel hit its zenith - while spinning at more than 15 mph - seven spotters surrounded the inflatable safety cushion 30 feet below. (The fact that the men stumbled slightly at other moments made this even more thrilling.)
Of course, the other thing Ringling Bros. has that Cirque du Soleil does not is live animals. I was underwhelmed by the horse act, which didn't seem to have much imagination, but impressed as usual by the various dog-like tricks that the elephants were able to perform.
Then there are the tigers. Ever since Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy was mauled by one of these giant cats in 2003, people have viewed this act in a different light. And that light is: you never know what's going to happen in there.In a twisted way, that accident is the best thing that ever happened for a guy like tiger trainer Tabayara Maluenda. This is to say, gosh, he seems awfully brave. These are unpredictable beasts, and when they swipe their paws at Maluenda or bare their teeth and growl, you catch your breath, just a little.The tiger-taming routine adds an element of straightforward, uncomplicated danger that Cirque du Soleil - with its abstract storytelling and contemplative themes - is unlikely to ever offer.Is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's circus still the greatest show on earth? If you have any interest in the answer to that question, it's worth buying a ticket and judging for yourself.Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/02/03/2980594/is-ringlings-show-still-the-greatest.html#storylink=cpy

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