Can You Have a Circus Without Elephants? 

Can You Have a Circus Without Elephants?

The question comes from Allan Bloom, who used to say in class that all 19th century novels are about adultery. At least one brave student "objected that she knew some which were not. My co-teacher, Saul Bellow, interjected, 'Well, of course, you can have a circus without elephants.'" (Love and Friendship, 209)

The most famous circus today is Cirque de Soleil, originally from Quebec: no elephants. Thispiece in Slate from a few months ago points out that there has been a trend toward no-elephant circuses, even without Cirque. But Cirque is now in a class by itself.

When Cirque begins a Beatles-themed show in Las Vegas' Mirage Hotel next year, its transformation from street performance to rock concert will be complete. This is the magic of Cirque: It's artistically pure enough to please the aesthete, and yet crass enough to thrive on the Las Vegas Strip.


Finally, there's the matter of exoticism. A great deal of Cirque du Soleil's magic comes from its unapologetic Frenchness. Or, if you prefer, its Quebecoisity. By this, I mean that Cirque du Soleil's shows make absolutely no sense at all. I studied the plot of Varekai for a solid hour before attending the performance, but by the end of the second act I was blubbering the same nonsense as the goat-man. But bafflement has its advantages. As with Blue Man Group and De La Guarda, audiences relish the idea of watching something queer and foreign—it gives the impression of highbrow culture, even if the underlying principle is nothing so much as bedlam. (Cirque motto: "Take comfort in the chaos.") As Cirque grows into a global behemoth, queerness becomes a two-way street: It reflects the cultural displacement of audience member and performer alike.

This all seems right to me. People must still have a vague feeling that they really ought to listen to a little classical music, or go to the opera, if only for the sake of the children. But they know they wouldn't like it--worse, they might embarrass themselves, say by falling asleep. What is wanted is something vaguely highbrow that includes a lot of noise and colour--something for the whole family. Enter: Andrew Lloyd Weber.

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Comment the only circus in the uk with an elephant is the bobby roberts circus in the uk this circus has only one elephant and its name is annie at the moment annie is under threat of being taken t a elephant sanctuary and along with born free and anima rights activists helen worth has been on many proggrammes complaining about the state of annie which is rediulas annie is very well cared for and is ina great condition annie gets all the veternary care if she needs it please surport annie by writting to helen or the sunday mirror newspaper

Tue Nov 22, 2005 5:00 am MST by bailey

Comment Highbrow? Having sat through the occasional opera; ballet and de-rigueur theatre whatever, I think what distinguishes Cirque is the creative edge due their high standards of technical and phsyical proficiency. I think some of the other venues spend their money on artistic committees instead of on the craftsmanship that their art requires.

Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:40 am MST by Diane

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