The Ringling Brother & Barnum & Bailey’s Circus held its last-ever performances as “The Greatest Show on Earth” in Providence last weekend. After over a century of history in showbiz, the circus, at last, has had its final act.
What child hasn’t been to the circus? Hasn’t marveled at the acrobats, the trapeze artists, the strongmen and the glamorous women taming a menagerie of wild beasts? Even though one may go years – decades! – without going to the circus, when you step back into the arena and gaze at the spectacle laid out before you, you can’t help but be brought back to your youth, to delight in the excitement and exuberance — a performance and feeling that is truly for “all ages.”
Seeing Ringling Brothers’ “Circus XTreme” at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center let us play witness to the last days of a tradition that has been a major part in our nation’s history. Led by the powerful and commanding ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson, the Circus XTreme show featured high-flying aerialists, tight-rope walkers, and the incredible Benny Ibarra on the swinging pendulum known as the “Wheel of Steel.”
In Act 1, we got to see the Danguir Troupe, a gravity-defying team of high-wire-walking extraordinaires. The quartet of daredevils tempted fate as they walked across a 35-foot high tightrope, at times jumping, skipping, and even climbing onto each other’s shoulders to tower high above the crowd below. Attention then turned to the aerialists, sky-high trapeze artists in a synchronized routine that required precision and risk, and of course, a degree of flair.
In Act 2, the XTreme factor was turned up a notch, with roaring tigers, leaping acrobats, and Benny Ibarra running and jumping along the “Wheel of Steel” in a gravity-defying set of tumbling, flipping, and nearly tripping –- much to the shock of the crowd. Then came the acrobats, piling high on top of each other and rocketing through the air and landing with perfect precision on each other’s shoulders.
Speaking of rockets, what would the circus be without a human cannonball? “Nitro Nicole” played the role of the “human fuse,” shooting out of a cannon 150 feet across the circus floor.
From trampoline acrobatics to trained poodles, to BMX masters and bumbling, fumbling clowns, the Circus XTreme had everything that one would expect to see at a circus, and more – except maybe the elephants, who were retired here in Providence last spring.
Though circus animal acts may have had a contentious history, Ringling Brothers was an important part of what it meant to be a child in America. From its start in the early 20th century, when the acts were all about oddities and animals and “bizarre bazaars,” to its current offering of pyrotechnics and mechanical feats, the circus has grew into a cherished family tradition that will be missed. I am glad to say that I was able to see the last Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey’s Circus performance. It is still the one and only “Greatest Show on Earth.”
(Photos courtesy Feld Entertainment)