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Big Apple Circus sets up ring in Fresh Meadows

The Big Apple Circus opened its 14−show run in Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows last weekend, bringing with it a frenzy of performers from throughout the world that dazzled audiences and created a psychedelic swirl of colors in their sequinned costumes as they soared through the air and landed perfectly executed backflips.

For its 31st season, the circus show is giving audiences performances from trapeze artists from Colombia, a renowned mime from Belgium and twins who graduated from Columbia University with degrees in anthropology and economics showing off their juggling and gymnastics skills in a tent that can hold up to 1,700 audience members.

“There’s nothing like the circus,” said Pennsylvania native Jake LaSalle, 24, who along with his twin brother, Marty, performs an act that combines acrobatics, juggling and dance.

“I love this location,” Jake LaSalle said of Queens. “It’s like the perfect romantic image of the circus, a tent in a park.”

More than 900 individuals watched a Saturday afternoon circus show, one of 14 that will be done at Cunningham Park through May 31. Fresh Meadows resident Sheila Harrison said she brought her two children — Amanda, 4, and Anthony, 6 — because she wanted them to witness one of her favorite pastimes.

“My dad would always take me to the circus when I was little, and I knew my kids would love it,” Sheila Harrison said. “I want them to see there’s much more to fun than movies or video games.”

Harrison said her children gasped as they watched trapeze artists fly across the tent, suspended to the ceiling by a rope.

Over the years, the circus has had to adapt to compete with a plethora of other entertainment, like video games, said Big Apple’s new artistic director, Guillaume Dufresnoy.

“A show 20 years ago is very different from today’s show,” said Dufresnoy, who has been working for Big Apple Circus for 22 years. “We’ve changed in style. The lighting and sound are different, and the acts have to be shorter. There’s more content.”

Dufresnoy, a French native who first fell into circus life because he “followed a girl,” said despite changes in pop culture, the circus continues to draw big crowds.

“There’s a lot of honesty about it,” Dufresnoy said of the circus. “Either you do a somersault or you don’t. There are no special effects. There are no smoke and mirrors. That’s the strength of what we do.”

For more information, visit

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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