Big Apple Circus 2021

BAC is back, with new acts, a never before seen line-up and a new administrator and owner. Seventh generation circus legend Nik Wallenda is not only the finale performer, but he’s the new owner as well.

There are nine multinational acts including a bounce juggler and a Risley act, plus Johnny Rocket as skill clown between acts.

Elli Haber starts the show off on swinging trapeze, balancing and releasing, plummeting and foot-catching. She punches the routine up by accompanying the live band as a superior vocalist. She trained in Sydney, Beijing, and in Montreal with coach Victor Fomine.

Diana Vedyashkina enters the ring with not one, but six trained dogs. Black and tan short haired Dachshunds to be exact. Dachshunds are a popular breed and notable owners have included Clark Gable, Andy Warhol, Grover Cleveland, Picasso, William Randolph Hearst, Carol Lombard, JFK, and Dan Holzman.

The Weiner dogs all rollover together on command and skip and hop and the audience can barely tolerate the cuteness. Miss Ved is the daughter of Russian bear trainers and the entire industry has had to adapt to survive.

The Yab Brothers who are not related but are brothers are the two-man Ethiopian Risley act performers. They do numerous single and double flips, and flips with twists. The flyer lands on the catchers feet prone or supine and occasionally upright feet to feet. The flyer is tossed vertically like a wheel, and horizontally like a table. They finish with 20 consecutive back-flips. And no drops.

The Ringmaster announces the next act by saying that, “No circus is complete without a juggling artist.” No one seems poised or prepared to argue the point, when suddenly the blond-haired blue-eyed 26-year-old Katya arrives in a blue spandex catsuit with a corner apparatus. She begins by bouncing 3 balls in numerous patterns and adds body throws and pirouettes. The four ball routine was her strong point alternating between square and circular patterns. A short five ball routine and 7 ball flash finished a rather brief but solid program.

Katya Nikiforova is from Ukraine and not from a circus family or background. Her parents encouraged her artistic pursuits as a child and by 16 she left home to enter the circus school in Kiev. Luke Barrage mentions her as voted into the list of Top 40 jugglers in 2020 with Katya at 28th.

Next up, from the UK it’s Matt Johnson who does the Houdini inspired Water Torture Escape. He is not covered with a curtain, so you can see him fiddling with the locks while holding his breath for an inordinate amount of time. He survives and escapes. After the 20 minute intermission he returns in the second half with another routine, the Upsidedown Straight-jacket of Death. The clock ticks away and the circular saw blades spin but he’s out of the straight-jacket just in time as the falling steel teeth barely miss him. Smaller children in the audience found it difficult to grasp the point of all this and I don’t blame them. I mean it’s all set up to look like he’s certainly going to die and then he survives by a hair’s breath. Well, it doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to be entertaining. So its ok by me.

Irina Akimova does a highly traditional hula hoop act showing great speed and control. Irina performed and taught with the Moscow Circus. 50-year-old Irina includes toss juggling 3 hoops with very high throws.

Between acts Ringmaster Alan Silva and skill clown Johnny Rocket play the audience like a fiddle. Rocket does comedic recaps such as hula hooping with a ten foot hoop or bringing a little dog of his own out to show how it shouldn’t be done. His stunts on the 15-foot-high sway pole were a highlight.

Ringmaster Alan Silva sums up the theme of the show, “Dreams can come true. All you need is the courage to dream”. The penultimate act is Silva doing an entire aerial silk routine of his own.

The Wallenda Family perform the spectacular finale. 42-year-old Nik holds ten astonishing Guinness world records. A number of Wellendas have fallen to injury or death over the course of seven generations and the remaining members are still performing extremely dangerous stunts with no net including the 7 man pyramid. (See my detailed review from the Big Apple 40th Anniversary Edition, 2017). Occasionally Nik’s 69-year-old courageous mother Delilah joins in to top the pyramid despite having endured a recent hip replacement.

Who could possibly be a more suitable owner than Nik Wallenda who risks his neck every night and is the scion of 7th generation circus royalty?

The circus is two hours long including a 20 minute intermission. There are toys and snacks for sale in the lobby. The tent is set up in Lincoln Center, next door to the New York Ballet Theater and the Metropolitan Opera House. You can see the circus in the afternoon, then go to the opera at night. Now through January 30th 2022.

Raphael Harris was the proprietor of the Jerusalem Circus School for Children for over ten years. He has performed "Sir Juggley's One Man Circus" over a thousand times. He appeared in the Guiness Book of World Records twice and the Record Setters Book of World Records three times. He lives in New York.

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