I was ten-years-old the last time I went to the circus. Fuzzy memories of tigers jumping through flaming hoops, girls in sequined costumes, and cotton candy pop to mind when I remember the Greatest Show on Earth.
Last Monday, I watched a newscast of the elephants parading from Union Station to the MCI Center. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was in town at the MCI Center March 25 - 28. I had to go.
My friend Karen was six the last time she entered a big top. We paid $18 for our seats, expecting to be somewhere upstairs in the nosebleed section. Surprise, surprise - we ended up on the main floor, right up front. White prancing horses wearing elaborate headdresses filled the three rings. A black stallion stood on hind quarters in the center ring as the white horses danced around him.
The arena exploded in cheers and claps. I turned to Karen and marveled to see my sedate friend howling with joy. The tiny girl squirming in front of me clapped and cheered her little heart out. Beside me 2-year-old Skye, decked out in an enormous sparkly pink crown, waved a lighted wand and told her mom she wanted "a horsey."
As the horses made their exit, dancers ran into the rings and performed a lively number around the ringmaster. This was not the circus I remembered. Where were the scary clowns? And when did it become so interactive?
Performers grabbed members of the audience to dance with the sequinned professionals....talk about getting 15-minutes in the spotlight. Literally!
The trapeze hung five stories up in the air. My heart quickened with anticipation. This was my favorite part! Limber gymnasts, suspended in midair, twisting their bodies. Double somersaults. Triple twists. WOW!
After a brief intermission, an enormous metal sphere rolled out to the center ring amidst fireworks and bursts of fire. Three motorcycles rolled into the sphere and road round and round with increasing speed. I thought they were going to kill each other in that steel ball. Then a fourth cyclist sped the length of the floor and entered the sphere. A few minutes later, a fifth bike road into the hellball. It seemed impossible that five men on motorbikes could fit in that tiny cage without colliding. Holy Shit - a SIXTH bike went into that death trap. All six bikes zooming round and round. I was on my feet applauding with the best of them.
There were tigers, of course, and those wonderful elephants. No clowns though - well... I think at some point there was a brief performance in the far ring, but I was distracted by the man in the white satin suit walking the tightrope. So maybe there were some clowns, but I couldn't say for sure.
If you're in the DC area, you can catch the "Greatest Show on Earth" at the MCI Center through tomorrow (Sunday, March 28), before it goes to George Mason's Patriot Center March 31 to April 4, and then returns to DC for its final shows at the D.C. Armory April 6 through April 12.
Trust me - with or without kids, you won't want to miss it!