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Big Apple Circus: Metamorphosis

Breathtaking and exciting new show from the famed one ring circus focuses on transformations and changes from contortion to Risley and animal acts.

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Jenny Vidbel and her trained animals (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Circus)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

The Big Apple Circus’ new edition for its 37th Season called Metamorphosis is a winner. Breathtaking acts alternate with performances of such skill that all you can ask is how did they do that. Aerial acts, gymnastics, contortion, animals, clowning, and audience participation – Metamorphosis has it all. The youthful and attractive cast dazzles with their skill and artistry. The colorful performance in the famed single ring where no member of the audience sits more than 50 feet from the action is an intimate show allowing the viewer to see up close. Metamorphosis is great fun for all ages.

The theme of this year’s show is change and transformations and most of the acts begin somewhere and end up somewhere else. The entire show is overseen by Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane, dressed in his stylish red and black costume, and back for his third season. Aside from announcing the acts, Kane also does some magic tricks of his own turning one item into another.

Contortionist Odbayasakh Dorjoo fits herself into a transparent cube so small that you do not believe what you are seeing. Then she is joined in the small box by Tatevik Seyranyan and you are positive that the cube will explode and send them tumbling, but you would be wrong. They both manage to fold themselves up into tiny parcels.

Animal trainer Jenny Vidbel brings out her unusual menagerie of animals, two by two, just like on Noah’s ark: horses, camels, llamas, goats, ponies and a canine. A dog jumps rope and through hoops, while the horses take the smaller animals for rides on their backs. After a series of remarkable tricks by them, she introduces us to talented rabbits, ferrets and porcupines who come out of a hat.

The Aniskin Troupe as they perform on the flying trapeze (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Circus)

This is followed by the Anastasini Brothers (Fabio and Giuliano) with their sensational Risley act. Risley is defined as an acrobalance act in which one performer lying on his back supports another who performs acrobatics propelled only by the feet of the other, a sort of balancing act on high. Could that have been 24 somersaults that climaxed the performance or was the event quicker than the eye?

The first act ends with the thrilling aerial act of Giovanni Anastasini and Irene Espana. High up, at the opposite side from a circulating space ship, the couple performs acrobatic acts while being swept along in orbit with the unmanned machine. In between the acrobatics and gymnastics acts, Francesco the Clown performs various tricks with members chosen from the audience for the amusement of the assembled crowd.

The second half brings back some performers and introduces new ones. Ms. Vidbel returns with her well trained, synchronized menagerie and before you know it she has turned them into a Living Carousel. Then at her signal each pair disappears two by two.

Ms. Seyranyan who earlier had joined Ms. Dorjoo in the glass box returns with a Rolla Bolla act. In this, she performs juggling tricks while balanced on a board which is placed increasingly higher on rolling cylinders. Each time her perch is made higher, your heart stops as you are certain that this time she will not succeed, but, of course, she does.

Juggler Tatevik Seyranyan and Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Circus)

The Smirnov Duo, Olga dressed in red, Vladimir dressed in black, appear and she proceeds to do quick changes that defy the eyes. Each time she reappears from an enclosed black silk hoop held by Vladimir for only an instant, she is dressed in a different color and outfit. For their finale, the two end up in evening clothes. Now that is unexplained magic.

The four Anastasinis, father, mother and sons, return with a remarkable act with diabolo juggling. This is a juggling prop with an axle and two cups which are spun using a string attached to two hand sticks. The four performers work separately and together, throwing their diabolos higher and higher, always catching them on the way down in synchronized formation. To make things more interesting, they begin trading their props with one another.

The final act is the one that appears to be most difficult. The Aniskin Troupe, consisting of five men and one woman, perform flying trapeze sequences, singly and then in combinations. Dressed in unique multi-colored zebra-striped costumes, they look like nothing so much as a breed of strange plants flying through the air.

Each act is short enough to leave you wanting more, none overstay their welcome. Big Apple Circus’s Metamorphosis, their 37th edition, is a spectacle for eye and ear. The artistry is superb and the feats will amaze you. The show which is basically nonverbal is appropriate for all ages and theatergoers.

Big Apple Circus: Metamorphosis (May 17 – June 14, 2015)

The Big Apple Circus Big Top

Cunningham Park, in Queens

For tickets, call 800-922-3772 or visit

Running time: two hours including one intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (936 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

1 Comment on Big Apple Circus: Metamorphosis

  1. Avatar Debbie Carlson // November 28, 2019 at 5:13 pm // Reply

    Saw the black ponies pulling the circus wagon in Macy’s Parade. Wondering what breed they are?

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