Well, that was .... uninspiring. Surprisingly so. We went to see Ringling Bro.s & Barnun & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth at the Boston Garden (I don't care who paid for it is remains the Garden, only slightly removed from the manky glory I remember from my youth) and, wow. Not much there there.
Aerin said it best, when she pointed out that they clearly have pots of money and spend it freely, but make inadequate use of the extensive talents of the people they have hired. Every act stopped before it got interesting. No individual was allowed complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty. The simple fact that there was always one more thing to look at than I had attention to apply meant that I felt I might be missing something, yet once I turned my eyes to a new point, there was still nothing much going on. The aerial stuff could be accomplished by anyone at Circus Smirkus (plus they didn't let the girls do anything interesting on trapeze - something I pay attention to.) There were too many clowns and no one got any personality except Bello and I was pretty darn sick of him by the end. Plus it was painfully loud. Really, really, really loud.
Having complained at length, there were some things I liked a lot. I liked that there were a lot of animals. I liked the horses (although the above applies here as well - they had some ponies in the opening parade we never saw again, and two Freisians who were gorgeous and should have had a bigger part in something, anything....) There were liberty zebras who did a little act. They were not as comfortable as the horses, but seemed in good spirits (the last one was bucking at the whip, which made me laugh each time). I loved that the dogs looked like they were in some kind of dog heaven - their tails were going, their eyes were bright, they were having a great time. For all that there were protesters outside complaining about the elephants, they didn't look unhappy. They looked like it was work, but not bad work, simply something that was not recess. I felt worse for the big cats - mostly tigers I think - who seemed really out of place. I think, in retrospect, they were encouraged to look fierce, but they looked mad and miserable to me. Not abused. Not starved. Just in the wrong place.
We were told to see the circus by our teachers, to see where we fit in the circus continuum (to be fair, it was aimed at the pro track kids, and Aerin's class of advanced teens, not the fat and lumpy middle-aged performer wanna-be that I am). I can see now why Cirque was so astonishing when it appeared for the first time almost 20 years ago - it is a really different aesthetic.
It is only a little sobering to realize that I am a circus snob.