The Greatest Show on Earth…

When was the last time you were at the circus? Other than Cirque du Soleil, I honestly can’t remember – I might have been around my daughter’s age.  Maybe a little older… But the circus – not the spectacular, multi ring, over the top extravaganza, but rather, the single ring, all hands on deck, family run traveling caravan is alive and well in Denmark.

An family outing for our toddler to a traditional circus in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Honestly, I didn’t think the circus was around anymore… Doesn’t seem like traveling with exotic animals while setting up and taking down every few days, formerly by train and now by land caravan is a thing anymore.  Other than Barnum & Bailey Ringling Brothers, I can’t remember when I saw an advertisement.  But here in Denmark, posters are all over the place, especially all summer long.

When all her classmates were going to Circus Baldoni at the start of the summer, my daughter begged me to go and basically I had a #momfail.  The days we could go they either weren’t performing or sold out, and other days, we already had plans or were traveling.  She was heartbroken;  I promised her a circus before the end of the summer.  My daughter doesn’t forget promises like that so she came to collect, and this weekend we caught the very last show of the Circus Dannebrog.

It’s a bit like being caught in a time warp.  I myself felt like I was about five again.  There was a live band, a woman who blew fire, an elephant (yes, they still do that here), camel rides, popcorn, acrobats, a girl on roller skates that then twirled from the ceiling, and a bar balance guy from “exotic Mexico”… If you’re an adult, you’ve probably seen it before, we’re not so easily amazed anymore, even though that make these feats any easier for the performers.    But nothing beats the shrieking delight of four-year olds  when they see  “death-defying feat” – that’s amazing every time.

My daughter and her friend had ringside seats, and I behind them.  They were thrilled that they could basically touch the animals from where we were sitting.  I nearly had a heart attack that they could touch the animals from where they were sitting.  There is something unnerving about 8 camels charging your way with nothing but a few pieces of plywood between you.

And yet, there was something so touching about the circus too.  I’ve always been a bit fascinated with circus lore – I found the Ringling Museum in Florida to be riveting.  And I loved Water for Elephants (the book anyway)… It’s a strange combination of entertainment and loneliness that comes out from the scene.   I always suspected that once you led the life of a circus performer, into which you were probably born into, it would be difficult to leave it – probably only other performers would ever understand you.  You could tell from this weekend’s performance that much of the circus is a family, either by blood or circumstance, and this show had a handful of little ones, some as early as three, already doing their crowdpleasers.   And in Denmark, there seem to be lots of crowds lining up to please. I don’t know if the circus in a traditional sense is long for this world – at least, maybe not in the US – this might be the only traditional circus my daughter might ever see, but I’m glad we made time for “showtime”.

Poster image via Oopsy Daisy.

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