The first thing people notice about Circus Vargas is its big-top tent. Hand-fashioned in Milan from 90,000 square feet of cerulean-blue and sunshine-yellow fabric, the canopy, along with spotlights and saw-dust-covered floors, completed the illusion of an elegant lost era when used in the 2011 film Water for Elephants. The last thing people notice is the absence of animals. They're too busy gaping at a man balancing a 12-step ladder with his mouth.
Keeping its marvels strictly human, Circus Vargas builds on a 40-year history by blending classic feats of fearlessness with surprising new tricks. The show features magic tricks along with a skilled hand balancer, a speed juggler, and the wheel of destiny.
Snakes slither in glass display cases, and lizards wriggle in the hands of trained handlers as they're held up in full view of a curious crowd. This is the scene as one of Repticon's presenters educates attendees on the biology, behavior, and typing speeds of exotic cold-blooded creatures at one of the year-round shows held in cities across the country. Reptile and amphibian breeders, scholars, and handlers engage audiences in lectures and demonstrations in the midst of live reptile exhibits, family activities, and displays for exotic-pet supplies. Presentations may focus on the genetics of large snake species, the specifics of exotic-pet care, and the effect that tiny hats have on the image of arachnids such as tarantulas, scorpions, and spiders.
The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
Fanny Kerwich, Lone Star Circus?s founder and current creative director, was born with the circus in her blood. An eighth-generation member of a renowned French circus family, she has been performing since age 6, delighting international audiences at Paris?s Lido and Moulin Rouge, Germany?s Circus Roncalli, and San Francisco?s Teatro ZinZanni.
Fanny?s performing experience and artistic vision now guide the nonprofit Lone Star Circus, which is a two-branched operation. Its performance troupe?s grace and athleticism shine during shows. The circus?s school hosts classes for adults and children throughout the week. Beginners? classes cover a variety of circus skills, from trapeze and aerial silk work to acrobatics and lyra, also known as aerial hoop. Learning to lift and hold your own body weight is a good way to get stronger and see muscle definition quickly.
According to Cirque School founder Aloysia Gavre, "anybody with any body" can run away with the circus, and she should know. As a former Cirque du Soleil aerialist, Aloysia has long been dominated by a passion for the circus arts. Her Cirque School has been teaching the tricks of the trade to new generations of circus performers since 2004, when it started humbly in a small Pilates studio. These small classes quickly blossomed into a full-time community institution as the school expanded into its current 6,000 square foot Hollywood studio. It's here where Gavre and her team of aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, stilt walkers, jugglers, and balance experts turn even the most casual circus fan into a full-blown big-top fanatic. They've even become the go-to resource for Hollywood productions seeking circus training, including consulting work for network shows and making Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz look like natural-born circus performers in Water for Elephants.
In classes designed for ages 14 and up, Cirque School melds professional circus training with limberness-enhancing Pilates. It tones frames, cultivates flexibility, and helps give future circus strongmen their strength, all while filling students with mental and physical wellness. It's rigorous, but that rigor is always overshadowed by fun. And as sticklers for safety, nobody works without crash pads. Dangling from a 10- to 19-foot open barrel-roof ceiling, students work their cores and upper bodies in the Pilates-infused Aerial 101 class, a 60-minute workshop on beginner-level trapeze and fabric. AcroFit 101 participants hold handstands and develop tumbling techniques in a 60-minute cross-training program. Alternatively, students can lengthen their limbs during Flexibility & Stretch, a 90-minute cocktail of circus contortion, dance training, and rubber-band impersonation.
When he first arrived in Las Vegas, Russian-trained juggler and clown Gregory Popovich incorporated his pet cat Snowbird into his act by chance, to overwhelming audience response. Inspired to expand the furry cast, Popovich headed to a local shelter where he was appalled at the number of abandoned pets. Now touring nationally with stops at Late Show with David Letterman and America?s Got Talent, Popovich leads a four-legged cast of 15 cats and 10 dogs, all former strays before becoming stars and, in some cases, internationally ranked poker players. Pups propel scooters across the stage and double-dutch jump rope as cats shimmy over parallel bars. European-style clowns and mesmerizing jugglers complement bouts of barking and meowing. And this season, the Pet Theater welcomes a new duo into the fold? a miniature horse and goat?who are certain to win audiences' hearts with their hoofed camaraderie and braying banter.