By Gary Murray

“The circus is in town!” has been the cry of children for over a hundred years.  People from near and far would travel toward the giant tent to see stunning feats under the big top.  It is a tradition that is as much a part of Americana as apple pie and fireworks.  The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is the best and it takes over the American Airlines Center for a two week run.  It then travels to Fort Worth.

This edition of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth” is all about Dragons.  The arena at the American Airlines Center was blacked on one end to make a back stage.  Giant screens surround the arena.  It is used to announce acts and add diversions while the rings are being arranged.  Over and over, an LED dragon would race around the screens.

The show opens with the ringmaster bringing out all the acts presented, including the greatest clowns on the planet.  This edition of the circus has fewer animal acts than previous years.  Everyone’s favorites, the elephants, take center stage as a taste of what is to come. 

The grand idea behind the circus is ‘The Spirit of Dragons” with the four elements of ‘strength’, ‘courage’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘heart’.  The ringmaster lets the audience know that all four points of the compass will be represented in the homage to dragons.

The first act is The Riders of the Wind, a group of Cossack horse riders who stand on top of their steeds and perform a series of stunts, flips and twists astride these majestic beasts.  While the stage is being set, we get our first high wire act.  Two motorcycle daredevils zoom back and forth, stories about the crowd, with pretty young show girls dangling on straps.  It is one of the many moments where the audience was gasping.

The highlight of the first part of the show was Alexander Lacey and his lion and tiger act.  He has half a dozen tigers and one massive lion in a make-shift cage.  Alexander makes the tigers jump over each other and then jump over the lion.   The tigers are used in comic situations and the ending is of the lion standing on top of a mirrored ball.  Cheers came from every corner of the hall.

Perhaps the most beautiful moment was used as a distraction to tear down the cat cage.  A group of acrobats were inside and handing from a series of giant plastic hinged bubbles suspended near the roof of the AAC.  The women spun and twisted in a performance that was as much ballet as acrobatic skill.  Then, the Hair Hang Heroines were suspended 35 feet in the air by just their long, black hair. They spun and flipped and generated utterances of amazement by the entire audience. 

The most exotic moment of the circus was the Shaolin Warriors from China.  They delivered an impress demonstration of Kung Fu and martial arts skills.  To top off the performance, one of the young masters jumped through a hoop of stainless steel blades.  He then did the stunt again with the hoop on fire. 

The first half of the circus ended with the flying stunt work of Troup Algeria.  They were vaulted up and away with a series of flips.  This is a standard circus act that is still amazing to watch.

After a short intermission, the grandest staple of the circus was presented, the double-decker high trapeze act of The Flying Caceres Troup.  They performed all the standard feats which included a triple summersault in mid-air.  It is the kind of act that brings out the kid in every member of the crowd.

A dog and pony show took over all three rings of the circus.  It received the most heartwarming reaction by the audience.  It seems that everyone loves dogs and ponies.  The show began to wrap up with elephants.  These giant beasts did spins and stands with one gray elephant doing a head-stand. 

Everyone knew that it would not be over until the dragon made its entrance.  It was a mechanical beast suspended a good ten feet about the audience.  Blowing fire and flapping its mechanical wings, this is just the type of mythical beast everyone expected.

The performance ends with The Globe of Steel.  Eight members of the Torres Family drive motorcycles into a cage of steel and intertwine their bikes in a manic display of timing and skill.  This act has been performed at the AAC before but this time the riders were in glow in the dark uniforms.  It gave an otherworld feel to the stunt.

Attending the circus has become a yearly ritual and this edition of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth” is easily the best performance that has ever graced the American Airlines Center in the last few seasons.  Even if you have seen the circus before, this tour should not be missed.   It is wholesome, family fun for all. 


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