Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will close early next month and become a page in history. A few troupes will continue, some with specialties like Cirque du Soleil and others that are true circuses but small like Circus Flora. But the “Big Top” will be gone.
Attending the final few performances, nobody would guess that the end is drawing near. Performers, at the peak of their profession in “The Greatest Show on Earth,” are not about to ease up their routines or disappoint the audiences.
A blur of countless colors, music pouring from carefully positioned speakers, costumes alight with spangles and crystals, lions and tigers caged with a man and a whip, lights scanning the crowd and reaching high above the ring, horses with bareback riders, people climbing to and hanging from the rafters, everything one expects in a circus envelops each guest, young or old. Everything, that is, except the elephants that are retired to a conservation center in Florida.
Circuses can be measured by the members of clown alley, and Ringling always has some of the best. While facing disappointment as the company closes, the clowns have lost none of their energy and joy performing. In fact, they display optimism alongside professional pride.
Joan Fernandez Cabrera said he is happy to work with Ringling, but when it ends he will visit his family in Cuba and then journey to Europe with confidence of finding work. “There is always room for a good clown,” he said.
The story is much the same with Victor Rossi, originally from France and of a family with many generations in the circus.
Ringling has brought laughs and gasps to countless millions during its 146 years crisscrossing the country. It could hold its own with moving pictures, but not with the hundreds of television channels in high definition and color.
Over the next few days, a man with a tall hat and wearing a military cut jacket of many colors will step into the spotlight and cry out “Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, you are about to see the most extraordinary performers and exotic animals one last time at The Greatest Show on Earth.” Older listeners will recall memories of years past, and the young will file away a memory to be recalled in years yet to come. The bad news is that the circus is passing away. The good news is that it also is passing through Northern Virginia for a final time, right now.