時の試練に耐えてきた10のサーカス行為

2015-10-15
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何世紀にもわたってサーカスをヒットさせてきた(そして何千年も議論するかもしれない)行為に入る前に、まずリングの本当のヒーローである綿菓子に帽子をかぶせましょう。

綿菓子は、たとえば古代ローマで発明され、コロッセオでライオンが人々を引き裂くのを見る人々に楽しんだとは言えません。(円形劇場で開催された大きなイベントはサーカスと呼ばれていましたが、「サーカス」はラテン語で単に「サークル」を意味していました[出典:パーキンソン他]。)しかし、粘着性のある甘いものは1904年のセントルイス万国博覧会で販売され、すぐにサーカスの定番[出典:歴史的なハドソンバレー]。皮肉なことに彼は歯科医であり、当初はキャンディーを「フェアリーフロス」と呼んでいたため、発明者のウィリアムモリソンをからかうのは簡単です。

しかし、綿菓子は、時の試練に耐えてきた非常に多くのサーカス行為の特徴を共有していると仮定しましょう。少しのマーケティングは、大衆を興奮させるのに大いに役立ちます。そして、陰謀をかき立てることについて言えば、私たちの最初のエントリはまさにそれを行います。

コンテンツ
  1. サイドショー
  2. 乗馬スタント
  3. アクロバット
  4. ピエロ
  5. ロープウォーキング
  6. ビッグキャットアクト
  7. ジャグリング
  8. 空中行為
  9. リングマスター

10:サイドショー

歴史を通して、多くの余興行為は搾取的でしたが、今日の余興は主に進歩的です。

19世紀以来、珍しい外見や才能を持ち、時には不快な固定観念をパレードする人々をフィーチャーしたサイドショーは、サーカス文化の一部となっています[出典:ビクトリアアンドアルバート博物館]。そして、それが過去の行為だと思わないように、パフォーマーを展示する多くの旅行ショーがまだあるので安心してください。メッセージは当然変わりました:最近のショーの多くは、エンパワーメントの進歩的な行為です。パフォーマーは面白いかもしれませんが、教育と受容は現代のサイドショーの強力なツールです。

そうは言っても、過去のサイドショーは控えめに言ってもしばしば問題がありました。一つには、それらは、西洋の世界で「エキゾチック」または「奇妙」と見なされている民族または人種グループのメンバーを誇示するのと同じくらい単純かもしれません。障害や体調を持って生まれた人々も奇妙なものとして提示され、これらの人々を標本として提示することを避けるために、サーカスは疑似科学的な言葉でパフォーマンスの説明をソファに置くかもしれません。

9:乗馬スタント

速歩馬の背中で演じるには、多くの力と調整が必要です。

私たちの多くはサーカスをライオンの調教師や曲芸師と同一視しているので(心配しないでください、私たちはそれらに行きます)、馬が最初にサーカスをヒットさせたことを知って驚くかもしれません。フィリップ・アストリーは、1768年にロンドンに乗馬学校を開いた元騎兵ライダーでした[出典:ジャンド]。その場所での大きな革新は「サーカス」、つまりリングでした。これにより、観客はあらゆる見晴らしの良い場所からライダーがトリックを実行するのを見ることができました。結局のところ、観客がすぐに見ることができる十分なスペースを確保することは容易ではありません。Astleyの直径42フィート(12.8メートル)のリングは、サーカスの標準的な手段として今でも使用されています[出典:Jando ]。

アストリーは馬術スタントのショーを始め、彼の動物の偉業で人々をリングに引き寄せました。1782年までに、彼はパリで同様の乗馬サーカスを開始し、競合他社が現れ始めました[出典:Jando ]。しかし、今ではサーカスは馬とポニーのショーだけではありませんでした。議事に少し興奮を加えるために、アストリーは馬の展示会の間に小さな小さなスケッチを追加し始めました。

8:アクロバット

アクロバットはサーカス芸術の要です。

アクロバットは、アストリーのサーカスでの演技間のスケッチの1つでしたが、元のスキルは、今日見られる他のいくつかの演技のブレンドでした。アクロバティックなパフォーマンスはいくつかの異なる分野に進化しましたが、体操やタンブリングのスキルが最初からサーカスの主力であったことは注目に値します。

イギリスのサーカスは乗馬に焦点を当てていたため、リングの最初の曲芸師は馬を小道具として使用しました。実際、1846年にジョンH.グレンロイという名の曲芸師が馬に乗って最初の宙返りを行うことでサーカスの歴史を作りました[出典:ジャンド]。(サーカスに参加している7歳の面白いアカウントが必要な場合は、Glenroyの自伝を調べてください。)

The other acrobatic arm of early circus acts was the floor acrobat who did tumbling or balancing acts. These early floor acrobats began incorporating humor into their performances by creating silly and funny characters. Comedy became a pretty lucrative draw once the circus introduced — you guessed it — clowns.

7: Clowns

Sure, some people may find clowns creepy, but they’ve been entertaining circus audiences for centuries.

Ah, yes. No circus would be complete without painted performers stuffing into too-small cars or hitting each other over the head with rubber chickens. (Is that even a clown act? If it is, let's hope there's more to it than that.) As we said, some floor acrobats from the earliest circus days began to incorporate clowning into their acts, and voila — the circus had its new stars.

Now we can't pretend the circus invented clowns. Although Philip Astley did do a kind of vaudeville act with a clown dubbed "Mister Merryman," and the dialogue was pretty much as silly as you'd expect, clowning and pantomimes existed long before Astley threw his hat in the ring [source: Angelo].

Today clowns are closely associated with the circus. But don't think that all clowns are alike: The true "white-face clown" might be the clever half of a duo who tricks the Auguste (the more naive and thoughtless clown) into trouble or mishaps.

6: Elephants

Elephants acts have been a part of the circus for years, but rising concern for the animals’ safety has forced Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to retire the act within a few years.

Elephants have long been displayed in Western cultures as exotic creatures for locals to gawk at. Sure, they didn't always do fancy tricks or act as a performing pad for acrobats, but even in 1623 there were reports of elephants traveling England in menagerie tours [source: Speaight ].

It wasn't until 1820 that performing elephants began to take over the circus scene, where a pachyderm would pick up coins from the floor or doff its keeper's hat [source: Speaight ]. In the 1870s elephants began performing in choreographed groups and became a hit [source: Victoria and Albert Museum]. While there's concern about the living and working conditions of elephants in the circus, the trainers also led a risky life back in the day. One famous trainer was killed trying to get one of his charges into a train [source: Speaight ]. Because of the controversy surrounding the treatment of circus elephants, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced it will retire the act by 2018 [source: Wallace].

We'll come back to more circus-staple animals, but first let's venture to an even more precarious event.

5: Rope Walking

Tightrope walking requires great agility and balance.

First lesson of the tightrope: Back in the day, it was referred to as "rope dancing" not "rope walking." While that might seem like nothing more than a semantic difference, rest assured there's a reason folks wanted to portray the act as a more sensual experience. Turns out that ladies walking on ropes could be a tad titillating to early audiences. Some of the rope walkers of the 17th and 18th centuries made a show of removing petticoats for performances [source: Speaight ]. Oh my!

Rope acts started much earlier than the circus but quickly became a prominent part of the show. While we typically think of rope acts as the high wire, where performers balance on a taut wire high above the ground, there were actually two other kinds. In the slack rope act, comedians perform on a loose rope strung between two poles. The slope wire, another rope act, curved from a pole to the floor, adding an incline for even more derring-do.

Speaking of daring, how about working with wild cats?

4: Big Cat Acts

The thrill and inherent danger of performing with wild animals has kept big cat acts around for decades.

As with elephants, cats — whether they be lions, tigers or some other big feline — were often paraded around in menagerie-like troops for fairs or traveling shows throughout history. In ancient times, however, animals were exhibited for eventual slaughter — they weren't necessarily performing great tricks for audiences. But by the time the circus became popular in the 19th century, big cats were being "tamed" [source: Speaight ].

Around 1825 a British menagerie started showing some of the traditional tricks that we still associate with circus big cat acts . A keeper would put his head in a lion's mouth and command a tiger and lion to jump through hoops — the usual stuff [source: Speaight ]. But some circuses went for more elaborate role plays, where a keeper acted as Hercules and vanquished a lion.

Although big cats in the ring make us "ooh" and "aah" these days, some very patient souls tried their hand at using house cats in their acts during the 19th century [source: Speaight ]. (It didn't last long.) But if herding cats sounds hard, let's try a simpler diversion for our next circus act.

3: Juggling

Jugglers can perform with a many different objects, including bowling pins.

Some of us might associate juggling with clowning, but juggling is an old standby at the circus. In 1820 an Indian juggler named Ramo Samee became quite famous for his performances, and he only had four balls in the air [source: Speaight ]. As the circus became more popular, more balls were added to acts, but audiences were restless for another kind of excitement.

Enter the idea of juggling bizarre objects. Jugglers began throwing up whatever they could, from coffee cups to knives. And juggling now might involve a bit more athletic prowess, as jugglers perform on a unicycle or tightrope to raise the stakes of an act.

In Chinese circus acts, just juggling wasn't nearly good enough — not when you could have performers juggling while suspended by their hair. This act, called hair hanging, is making a bit of a comeback in modern circuses, but it might involve more acrobatics than juggling [source: Winship].

2: Aerial Acts

The trapeze has been a circus staple since the act’s first performance in 1859.

Where would we be without the flying trapeze? We've already discussed wire walkers and other above-ground acts, but the aerialists deserve their own mention. While we think of the flying trapeze as a circus staple, it was actually part of a longer evolution of aerial acts in the circus . In the last half of the 19th century, the Roman Rings (the rings used in gymnastics competitions) were linked with a bar to create the trapeze [source: Speaight ]. Performers found all sorts of fun uses for it, including the Iron Jaw act, in which they held the bar with their teeth.

But it was Jules Leotard who added another trapeze to the act, which allowed performers to fly through the air from one apparatus to another. The first recorded performance was in 1859, and it proved to be such a sensation that a commemorative plaque marks the event at the Cirque Napoleon where it took place [source: Jando]. Of course, Leotard also gave us another circus tradition: the leotard costume.

1: Ringmaster

The ringmaster keeps the show running smoothly.

No self-respecting circus is complete without a nattily dressed man or woman stepping into the ring to shout the program and keep the crowd excited. The ringmaster, formerly called the riding master from the circus' equestrian history, was an important part of the early circus. While not technically an act, it's a tradition that has continued throughout the modern circus.

While ringmasters often interact with the clowns in present-day circuses, they're really there to present the acts to the audience. Early ringmasters took on the job of emcee, but they were also responsible for keeping the horses at a steady gait while performers did acrobatics on the horses' backs. Hence we often see the ringmaster wearing the red coat, white pants and high boots of an equestrian captain. Ringmasters in early circuses struck their whip on the ground to prompt the horses. The clown, on the other hand, might get a more direct hit.

Lots More Information

Author's Note: "10 Circus Acts That Have Withstood the Test of Time"

While circuses leave some people a little squeamish (the treatment of animals and performers chief among the reasons), the history of the circus can fascinate even the most dedicated circus-cynic. From sideshows to stunts, George Speaight's fantastic book "A History of the Circus" is a great read for learning about how the modern circus took off in Britain and America.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Aerialists.org. "History of Aerialism, Acrobats & Cirque Performance." April 28, 2010. (April 20, 2015) http://www.aerialists.org/history-aerialism-acrobats-cirque-performance/
  • Angelo, Henry. "The Reminiscences of Henry Angelo, Volume 2." Lippincott. 1904. (April 20, 2015) https://books.google.com/books?id=qss3AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Brooke, Bob. "Step Right Up!" History Magazine. October/November 2001. (April 20, 2015) http://www.history-magazine.com/circuses.html
  • Glenroy, John H. "Ins and Outs of Circus Life." Circus Historical Society. (April 20, 2015) http://www.circushistory.org/Glenroy/Glenroy.htm
  • HeyRubeCircus. "The Top 10 Outstanding Contemporary Sideshow Freak Performers." Dec. 19, 2010. (Oct. 13, 2015) http://www.heyrubecircus.com/contemporary-culture/the-top-10-oustanding-contemporary-sideshow-freak-performers/
  • Historic Hudson Valley. "Cotton candy: The toothy history of a classic circus treat." May 24, 2012. (April 20, 2015) http://www.hudsonvalley.org/community/blogs/cotton-candy-toothy-history-classic-circus-treat
  • Huey, Rodney A. "An Abbreviated History of The Circus in America." Federation Mondiale du Cirque. (April 20, 2015) http://www.circusfederation.org/uploads/circus_culture/about/america-huey.pdf
  • Jando, Dominique. "Cirque d'Hiver." Circopedia. (April 20, 2015) http://www.circopedia.org/Cirque_d%27Hiver
  • Jando, Dominique. "Short History of the Circus." Circopedia. (April 20, 2015) http://www.circopedia.org/SHORT_HISTORY_OF_THE_CIRCUS
  • Parkinson, Robert Lewis et al. "Circus." Encyclopaedia Britannica. (April 20, 2015) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/118480/circus#toc254847
  • PBS. "History of the Circus." (April 20, 2015) http://www.pbs.org/opb/circus/in-the-ring/history-circus/
  • Speaight, George. "A History of the Circus." Tantivy Press. 1980.
  • The Humour Foundation. "History of Clowning." (April 20, 2015) http://www.humourfoundation.com.au/resources/history-of-clowning.html
  • Victoria and Albert Museum. "The Development of Circus Acts." (April 20, 2015) http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/d/development-of-circus-acts/
  • Wallace, Gregory. "Ringling Bros. to phase out elephants from circus shows." March 5, 2015. (Oct. 15, 2015) http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/05/news/ringling-bros-circus-elephants/
  • ウィンシップ、リンジー。「フリンジサーカス:髪を吊るす芸術。」保護者。2014年3月29日。(2015年4月20日)http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/mar/29/fringe-circus-hair-hanging-capilotractees-circusfest-roundhouse
  • Ziethen、Karl-Heinz、AndrewAllen。「ジャグリングの簡単な歴史。」ジャグリング情報サービス。1996年。http://www.juggling.org/books/artists/history.html

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