Big Apple Circus’ 30th marries old, new acts

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When the Big Apple Circus arrives in Cunningham Park this year, it will marry its European style with Continental performers, so expect some old favorite acts and someone new, who is also sort of borrowed. And the only blue will be anyone who misses the show.

The old favorite performers, returning by popular demand for the circus's 30th anniversary, include Swiss juggler Kris Kremo; Russia's Kovgar acrobatic troupe, which incorporates jumping rope and teeter-boards in its act; and English equestrienne Yasmine Smart, whose horses can dance.

The city's best and best-known one-ring circus is to arrive in Queens for its annual run May 10-26 tickets went on sale Wednesday - and its smaller-scale style and setup are traditionally European. The Big Apple's star-adorned tent is to be set up in the parking lot near the corner of Francis Lewis Boulevard and Utopia Parkway.

"One of the best things about this show is nobody's more than 50 feet from the ring," said Carrie Harvey, the new Big Apple ringmistress. Harvey trained for a career in musical theater in her native Great Britain and worked as a presenter in television and radio before performing under various big tops. She has led and hosted the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth, as well as the Grand Circo Mundial in Spain and the Cirque Amare in France, where she was that country's first and at the time Europe's only female ringmistress.

"I always knew I'd be performing, and I had wanted to work with this circus for years," she said. "It's a phenomenal show."

Harvey is borrowed, if you will, on a two-year contract with the Big Apple Circus, and many of the old favorite performers have also rejoined the group after working with other circuses elsewhere in the world. The concept of the circus itself is an import from England, Harvey said.

"The one-ring circus was invented in London in 1768 by a man named Philip Astley," a horse trainer, who wanted to show what he could do with horses, Harvey said.

Smart keeps that longstanding tradition alive for the Big Apple, with her horses who twirl and dance.

Astley also trained dogs for his 18th century show, which is another tradition the Big Apple has continued.

Russia's Irina Markova trains dogs to caper, dance and dart for the Big Apple Circus.

"It's a very traditional show, which is one of the things I think makes the Big Apple Circus so special," she said.

If you notice that many of the performers have European roots, it is because the Big Apple tours and has an excellent reputation there, drawing performers from all over the world.

"In the circus, we're multicultural, and performers often speak two and three languages," Harvey said. She speaks Spanish and French fluently, and a smattering of Italian in addition to her native English. "Frequently, the children speak three languages growing up" if they have parents from two different countries and live in a third, she said.

The traveling nature of circus work also leads performers to pick up languages like tourists collect souvenirs.

"You learn so you can talk to one another. For instance, you might work with Italian clowns, but the common language might be Spanish" between the clowns and the other performers, Harvey said.

Harvey will be speaking English for the audience in Cunningham Park. And anyone who misses her and all the jumping, juggling, dancing, barking, twirling, multicultural fun will certainly be blue.

If You Go:

Big Apple Circus 30th Anniversary Groups of 15 or more saves up to 30% on select seats and dates.

When: May 10, 11 17, 18, 24, 25, and 26, @ 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.; May 13 and 14, 11 a.m.; May 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, and 23, @ 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.; May 12 and 19, No Show

Where: Cunningham Park, Queens

Cost: Group Rates start at $14; 11 a.m. Group Rates start at $10; Children under 3 are free on the lap of a paid adult. One child per lap.

Contact: 800-922-3772, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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