Monday, August 24, 2020

Categories of Entertainment - Circus

A circus is a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, dancers, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, magicians, unicyclists, as well as other object manipulation and stunt-oriented artists. The term circus also describes the performance which has followed various formats through its 250-year modern history. Although not the inventor of the medium, Philip Astley is credited as the father of the modern circus. In 1768 Astley, a skilled equestrian, began performing exhibitions of trick horse riding in an open field called Ha'Penny Hatch on the south side of the Thames River.[1] In 1770 he hired acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers and a clown to fill in the pauses between the equestrian demonstrations and thus chanced on the format which was later named a "circus". Performances developed significantly over the next fifty years, with large-scale theatrical battle reenactments becoming a significant feature. The traditional format, in which a ringmaster introduces a variety of choreographed acts set to music, developed in the latter part of the 19th century and remained the dominant format until the 1970s. 

As styles of performance have developed since the time of Astley, so too have the types of venues where these circuses have performed. The earliest modern circuses were performed in open-air structures with limited covered seating. From the late 18th to late 19th century, custom-made circus buildings (often wooden) were built with various types of seating, a centre ring, and sometimes a stage. The traditional large tents commonly known as "big tops" were introduced in the mid-19th century as touring circuses superseded static venues. These tents eventually became the most common venue. Contemporary circuses perform in a variety of venues including tents, theatres and casinos. Many circus performances are still held in a ring, usually 13 m (42 ft) in diameter. This dimension was adopted by Astley in the late 18th century as the minimum diameter that enabled an acrobatic horse rider to stand upright on a cantering horse to perform their tricks.

Contemporary circus has been credited with a revival of the circus tradition since the late 1970s, when a number of groups began to experiment with new circus formats and aesthetics, typically avoiding the use of animals to focus exclusively on human artistry. Circuses within the movement have tended to favor a theatrical approach, combining character-driven circus acts with original music in a broad variety of styles to convey complex themes or stories. Contemporary circus continues to develop new variations on the circus tradition while absorbing new skills, techniques and stylistic influences from other performing arts. 

History
 
The modern and commonly held idea of a circus is of a Big Top with various acts providing entertainment therein. However, the history of circuses is more complex, with historians disagreeing on its origin, as well as revisions being done about the history due to the changing nature of historical research, and the ongoing circus phenomenon. For many, circus history begins with Englishman Philip Astley, while for others its origins go back much further—to Roman times. 

Origins

In Ancient Rome, the circus was a building for the exhibition of horse and chariot races, equestrian shows, staged battles, gladiatorial combat and displays of (and fights with) trained animals. The circuses of Rome were similar to the ancient Greek hippodromes, although circuses served varying purposes and differed in design and construction, and for events that involved re-enactments of naval battles, the circus was flooded with water. The Roman circus buildings were, however, not circular but rectangular with semi circular ends. The lower seats were reserved for persons of rank; there were also various state boxes for the giver of the games and his friends. The circus was the only public spectacle at which men and women were not separated. Some circus historians such as George Speaight have stated "these performances may have taken place in the great arenas that were called 'circuses' by the Romans, but it is a mistake to equate these places, or the entertainments presented there, with the modern circus" [5] Others have argued that the lineage of the circus does go back to the Roman circuses and a chronology of circus-related entertainment can be traced to Roman times, continued by the Hippodrome of Constantinople that operated until the 13th century, through medieval and renaissance jesters, minstrels and troubadours to the late 18th century and the time of Astley. 

The first circus in the city of Rome was the Circus Maximus, in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. It was constructed during the monarchy and, at first, built completely from wood. After being rebuilt several times, the final version of the Circus Maximus could seat 250,000 people; it was built of stone and measured 400m in length and 90m in width.[8] Next in importance were the Circus Flaminius and the Circus Neronis, from the notoriety which it obtained through the Circensian pleasures of Nero. A fourth circus was constructed by Maxentius; its ruins have helped archaeologists reconstruct the Roman circus.

For some time after the fall of Rome, large circus buildings fell out of use as centres of mass entertainment. Instead, itinerant performers, animal trainers and showmen travelled between towns throughout Europe, performing at local fairs.

Astley and early British circus

The origin of the modern circus has been attributed to Philip Astley, who was born 1742 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, England. He became a cavalry officer who set up the first modern amphitheatre for the display of horse riding tricks in Lambeth, London on 4 April 1768.Astley did not originate trick horse riding, nor was he first to introduce acts such as acrobats and clowns to the English public, but he was the first to create a space where all these acts were brought together to perform a show. Astley rode in a circle rather than a straight line as his rivals did, and thus chanced on the format of performing in a circle. Astley performed stunts in a 42 ft diameter ring, which is the standard size used by circuses ever since. Astley referred to the performance arena as a circle and the building as an amphitheatre; these would later be known as a circus. In 1770 Astley hired acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers and a clown to fill in the pauses between acts.

Astley was followed by Andrew Ducrow, whose feats of horsemanship had much to do with establishing the traditions of the circus, which were perpetuated by Hengler's and Sanger's celebrated shows in a later generation. In England circuses were often held in purpose-built buildings in large cities, such as the London Hippodrome, which was built as a combination of the circus, the menagerie and the variety theatre, where wild animals such as lions and elephants from time to time appeared in the ring, and where convulsions of nature such as floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been produced with an extraordinary wealth of realistic display. Joseph Grimaldi, the first mainstream clown, had his first major role as Little Clown in the pantomime The Triumph of Mirth; or, Harlequin's Wedding in 1781.The Royal Circus was opened in London on 4 November 1782 by Charles Dibdin (who coined the term "circus"),aided by his partner Charles Hughes, an equestrian performer.In 1782, Astley established the Amphithéâtre Anglais in Paris, the first purpose-built circus in France, followed by 18 other permanent circuses in cities throughout Europe.Astley leased his Parisian circus to the Italian Antonio Franconi in 1793. In 1826, the first circus took place under a canvas big top.

Ricketts and the first American circus
 
The Scotsman John Bill Ricketts brought the first modern circus to the United States. He began his theatrical career with Hughes Royal Circus in London in the 1780s, and travelled from England in 1792 to establish his first circus in Philadelphia. The first circus building in the US opened on April 3, 1793 in Philadelphia, where Ricketts gave America's first complete circus performance.George Washington attended a performance there later that season.

Expansion of the American format
 
In the Americas during the first two decades of the 19th century, the Circus of Pepin and Breschard toured from Montreal to Havana, building circus theatres in many of the cities it visited. Victor Pépin, a native New Yorker,was the first American to operate a major circus in the United States.Later the establishments of Purdy, Welch & Co., and of van Amburgh gave a wider popularity to the circus in the United States. In 1825, Joshuah Purdy Brown was the first circus owner to use a large canvas tent for the circus performance. Circus pioneer Dan Rice was the most famous pre-Civil War circus clown, popularizing such expressions as "The One-Horse Show" and "Hey, Rube!". The American circus was revolutionized by P. T. Barnum and William Cameron Coup, who launched the travelling P. T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie & Circus, the first freak show. Coup also introduced the first multiple-ring circuses, and was also the first circus entrepreneur to use circus trains to transport the circus between towns.  

Touring
 
In 1838, the equestrian Thomas Taplin Cooke returned to England from the United States, bringing with him a circus tent. At this time, itinerant circuses that could be fitted-up quickly were becoming popular in Britain. William Batty's circus, for example, between 1838 and 1840, travelled from Newcastle to Edinburgh and then to Portsmouth and Southampton. Pablo Fanque, who is noteworthy as Britain's only black circus proprietor and who operated one of the most celebrated travelling circuses in Victorian England, erected temporary structures for his limited engagements or retrofitted existing structures.One such structure in Leeds, which Fanque assumed from a departing circus, collapsed, resulting in minor injuries to many but the death of Fanque's wife. Three important circus innovators were the Italian Giuseppe Chiarini, and Frenchmen Louis Soullier and Jacques Tourniaire, whose early travelling circuses introduced the circus to Latin America, Australia, Southeast Asia, China, South Africa and Russia. Soullier was the first circus owner to introduce Chinese acrobatics to the European circus when he returned from his travels in 1866, and Tourniaire was the first to introduce the performing art to Ranga, where it became extremely popular.  

After an 1881 merger with James Anthony Bailey and James L. Hutchinson's circus and Barnum's death in 1891, his circus travelled to Europe as the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth, where it toured from 1897 to 1902, impressing other circus owners with its large scale, its touring techniques (including the tent and circus train), and its combination of circus acts, a zoological exhibition and a freak show. This format was adopted by European circuses at the turn of the 20th century. 

The influence of the American circus brought about a considerable change in the character of the modern circus. In arenas too large for speech to be easily audible, the traditional comic dialog of the clown assumed a less prominent place than formerly, while the vastly increased wealth of stage properties relegated to the background the old-fashioned equestrian feats, which were replaced by more ambitious acrobatic performances, and by exhibitions of skill, strength and daring, requiring the employment of immense numbers of performers and often of complicated and expensive machinery.

From the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century, travelling circuses were a major form of spectator entertainment in the US and attracted huge attention whenever they arrived in a city. After World War II, the popularity of the circus declined as new forms of entertainment (such as television) arrived and the public's tastes became more sophisticated. From the 1960s onward, circuses attracted growing criticism from animal rights activists. Many circuses went out of business or were forced to merge with other circus companies. Nonetheless, a good number of travelling circuses are still active in various parts of the world, ranging from small family enterprises to three-ring extravaganzas. Other companies found new ways to draw in the public with innovative new approaches to the circus form itself. 

Russia
 
In 1919, Lenin, head of the Soviet Russia, expressed a wish for the circus to become "the people's art-form", with facilities and status on par with theatre, opera and ballet. The USSR nationalized Russian circuses. In 1927, the State University of Circus and Variety Arts, better known as the Moscow Circus School, was established; performers were trained using methods developed from the Soviet gymnastics program. When the Moscow State Circus company began international tours in the 1950s, its levels of originality and artistic skill were widely applauded. 

Contemporary circus
 
Contemporary circus (originally known as nouveau cirque) is a performing arts movement that originated in the 1970s in Australia, Canada, France,the West Coast of the United States, and the United Kingdom. Contemporary circus combines traditional circus skills and theatrical techniques to convey a story or theme. Compared with the traditional circus, the contemporary genre of circus tends to focus more attention on the overall aesthetic impact, on character and story development, and on the use of lighting design, original music, and costume design to convey thematic or narrative content. For aesthetic or economic reasons, contemporary circus productions may sometimes be staged in theatres rather than in large outdoor tents. Music used in the production is often composed exclusively for that production, and aesthetic influences are drawn as much from contemporary culture as from circus history. Animal acts appear rarely in contemporary circus, in contrast to traditional circus, where animal acts have often been a significant part of the entertainment.  
 
Early pioneers of the contemporary circus genre included: Circus Oz, forged in Australia in 1977 from SoapBox Circus (1976) and New Circus (1973); the Pickle Family Circus, founded in San Francisco in 1975; Ra-Ra Zoo in 1984 in London; Nofit State Circus in 1984 from Wales; Cirque du Soleil, founded in Quebec in 1984; Cirque Plume and Archaos from France in 1984 and 1986 respectively. More recent examples include: Cirque Éloize (founded in Quebec in 1993); Sweden's Cirkus Cirkör (1995); Teatro ZinZanni (founded in Seattle in 1998); the West African Circus Baobab (late 1990s);and Montreal's Les 7 doigts de la main (founded in 2002).The genre includes other circus troupes such as the Vermont-based Circus Smirkus (founded in 1987 by Rob Mermin) and Le Cirque Imaginaire (later renamed Le Cirque Invisible, both founded and directed by Victoria Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin). 
 
The most conspicuous success story in the contemporary genre has been that of Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus company whose estimated annual revenue now exceeds US$810 million,and whose nouveau cirque shows have been seen by nearly 90 million spectators in over 200 cities on five continents.