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The Big Apple Circus: Bigger, Better & More Thrilling Than Ever


After a one year hiatus, New York’s home-grown Big Apple Circus has made a triumphant return, premiering its 40th Anniversary season atits longtime home under the big top in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, with performances through January 7. Rescued by Big Top Works, this New York original and intimate one-ring “circus with a heart” is back bigger, better, and newer than ever.

This edition captures the family fun, excitement, and thrills you expect with bumbling clowns, daredevils, acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, majestic horses, playful pups, and rousing music from a live band. There’s traditional sawdust, cotton candy, popcorn, and hot dogs slathered with mustard and relish to take you back to the nostalgic era when tented shows crisscrossed the country filling children of all ages with wonder and joy – and, no doubt, pounding heartbeats watching those daring performers on trapeze and high wire.

"This is a dream come true,” states Dr. Neil Kahanovitz, a now-retired spine surgeon, theatrical producer, and former circus performer. “The Big Apple Circus was a New York City cultural gem and we couldn’t let this beloved American pastime just disappear.  We wanted the big top to rise again.

BACNKahanovitz“Our goal,” he continues, “has been to push the envelope, to go gently into new territory, but keep circus tradition relevant for modern-day audiences."

Though there have been changes – including a multi-million dollar upgrade in technical aspects and infrastructure, one thing hasn’t changed. “We wanted to keep the intimacy that a European-style, one-ring show offers,” says Dr. Kahanovitz. Under the climate-controlled big top, no seat is more than 50 feet from the ring.

Ready, set, go for lump-in-your-throat action? For the firsttime in circus history under the same big top or arena, two acts of audacious, death-defying acrobats go for the gold with edge-of-the seat daredevil thrills: the Flying Tunizianis – with trapeze wiz Ammed Tuniziani doing what was once thought unattainable: the quad somersault; and the Flying Wallendas, probably the most daring family troupe in circusdom, on the taunt high wire with a jaw dropping seven-person pyramid.

The latter act traces its roots back seven generations to the 1780s and the Austro-Hungarian empire. Headliner Nik Wallenda, who first set foot on the high wire at age two, holds 10 world records.

In addition to thrills, ringmaster Ty McFarlan, Ringling Bros. ringmaster emeritus, presides over the high spirits and hijinks of Grandma, a 2016 inductee into the International Circus Hall of Fame, and his sidekick Mr. Joel; a talented barking brigade of rambunctious rescue dogs and 8 magnificent steeds and eight ponys trained by Jenny Vidbel; Italian skate acrobats Dandlino and Luciania; and the U.S.’s young, debonair Jan Damm, making his BAC debut doing “rola-bola” (balancing on stacks of wobbly cylinders).

You might call this year’s show a generational affair. Wallenda is a ninth generation performer; his wife Erendira, from Australia’s famed Ashton Circus family (third oldest in circus history), has eighth generation linage; hand-and-foot balancing “Risley” acrobats Guiliano and Fabio Anastisini are ninth generation; and Argentine contortionist and crossbow artist with a great aim Elayne Kramer, who began performing at age four, is sixth generation. Vidbel and handsome Venezuelan juggler Gama Garcia are third generation.


It’s not surprising to discover that Dr. Kahanovitz, who was president of the North American Spine Society and has been published in medical journals, has a love of circus. “I grew up in a blue-collar family and was the first to attend college. But I kept hearing the siren call of the circus. I arranged a leave of absence from the University of Maryland Medical School and ran away with the circus.”

For five years, he lived the nomadic life, travelingwith bus-and-truck companies. After starting in concessions, he graduated to clowning and, self-taught by watching, segued to trampoline and trapeze acts. On his retirement from medical practice, he says “I wanted to do something different and challenging, so I ran away with the circus again.”

This time “it took a village,” states Dr. Kahanovitz. Compass Partners, a Sarasota-based investment firm led by managing partner Richard Perlman, formed Big Top Works and “our investors built a sustainable business plan to not only bring back but also revitalize the Big Apple Circus to restore it to its proper place in New York culture.” The team includes industry veteran Larry Solheim, BAC former vice president and general manager.

The 40th Anniversary BAC show is directed by Mark Lonergan, artistic director of New York’s award-winning theater company Parallel Exit, with choreography and associate direction by Antoinette DiPietropolo. Rob Slowick returns to music direct his big little band. Broadway’s Rob Bissinger is scenic designer and the dazzling costumes are by Amy Clark.

All in all, the return of the Big Apple Circus is the perfect holiday season escape with its astonishing tent of wonder! Purchase tickets, from $35-$150VIP ring side tickets, at the Damrosch Park box office or at, where you can find the varying schedules, community outreach programs with reduced-priced admission, and special family events.

What happens in New York will not stay in New York. Traditional circus will be alive and well following the New York engagement with tour stops that include stops in Atlanta, Boston, the D.C. area, Baltimore, and other cities.

"Layla & Majnun" Dazzles at Lincoln Center White Light Fest


Surely the highlight of this year’s White Light Festival (a yearly festival devoted to the spiritual dimension in the performing arts) at Lincoln Center, which took place October 28 - November 15, 2017 was the opportunity to see—as I did on the evening of Saturday, October 28th, at the Rose Theater (10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY)—the marvelous Layla and Majnun, a beautiful recent ballet by Mark Morris, one of the most celebrated contemporary choreographers.

The work is adapted from an opera from 1908 by Uzeyir Hajibeyli—written when he was twenty-three years old—and the founding work of modern Azerbaijani music. The libretto was adapted from a classic sixteenth century Turkish poem in the Azeri dialect written by Muhammad Fuzuli, itself based on famous pre-Islamic Arabic tales. The story tells of the timeless, mystical love and separation and reuniting in death of the two eponymous protagonists.

The score was condensed and rearranged for the Silk Road Ensemble in a version for ten musicians and two singers by Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen, and Alim Qasimov, an Azerbaijani national treasure who sings the lead role of Majnun, alongside his student and daughter, Fargana Qasimova, who sings the part of Layla. The musicians remain onstage during the duration of the performance but the dancing is preceded by a purely musical prologue, a medley of Azerbaijani music based on Bayati Shiraz, one of the major Azerbaijani mughams, gorgeously sung by Kamila Nabiyeva and Miralam Miralamov.

Another distinguished credit belongs to the renowned, late British painter, Howard Hodgkin, a reproduction of one of whose paintings forms the backdrop for the ballet and who provided the costume designs. The production is dedicated to his memory.

Morris’s approach is highly abstract and de-dramatized, which ultimately produces a highly formalist effect. In addition to the outstanding musicians, he is well served by his excellent dancers who exquisitely realized his extraordinary choreography. All in all, this is probably one of the artist’s strongest works, and was a sumptuous event, both musically and visually.

Big Apple Circus Schedules Performances for Children with Special Needs and Autism


The Big Apple Circus, beloved by thousands since its 1977 debut, returns to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park October 27January 7. Also returning are their community outreach programs, Circus of the Senses and a performance for children with autism.

BACCoSClownNoseCircus of the Senses has its beginning in 2007 when theater executive Anne Tramon arranged for Broadway theatres to invite blind students for audio-descriptive performances. It was such a success that the Big Apple Circus asked her to expand the program for special family shows.

Big Apple Circus will host two Circus of the Senses for those blind, deaf, with vision impairment and cognitive challenges: 75-minute school matinees November 2nd and 3rd at 11 A.M. [all seats priced at $10].

These feature an exciting, multi-dimensional performing arts experience, integrating theater, dance, and live music with the circus arts. There will be ASL-interpreted performances for children with visual, auditory, and sensory impairments and hands-on experiences with Big Apple artists, and Jenny Videl’s rescues dogs and horses. In addition, there’s pre- and post-show touch therapy experiences, Braille programs, and large print books.

Tramon’s company G Pass provides wireless infared assistive listening devices with live audio narration by ASL Interpreters.

BACCoSHorseOn Saturday, November 18 at 11 A.M. there’ll be a performance for children with autism, which will feature live audio description and sensory adaptations for ASD patrons and their families that include modifications to sound and lighting, and a professionally-staffed calming area. Fox TV news anchor Ernie Anastos will be welcoming the audience as guest ringmaster.

For more information, individual tickets and group pricing and pricing for
November 18, contact Lisa Lewis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

As part of the Big Apple Circus outreach initiative, there will be eleven Circus for All initiative performances throughout the ten-week run. Every seat in the house will be offered to underprivileged children and underserved schools for $10 tickets.

"La Bayadère" Casts a Shade on American Ballet Theater

In the panoply of works by Marius Petipa that have entered the repertory of classical ballet, La Bayadèreis not one of the most famous or popular but the loveliness of its choreography, set to a melodious and underrated score by Ludwig Minkus, is comparable to the best of them. The American Ballet Theater’s (at 890 Broadway #3, New York, NY) evening performance on Saturday, June 6th, proved to be a stellar one, despite the replacement, in the lead role of Nikiya, of the incomparable Natalia Osipova — she had magnificently displayed hitherto unseen depths in Giselle the previous week—  with guest artist Maria Kochetkova, but it is perhaps no surprise that she too is a thrilling ballerina, as was abundantly in evidence that night.

Her partner, as Solor, was another Russian guest artist, Leonid Safranov, and in both precision and dynamism he was to be Kochetkova’s equal. The tertiary role of Gamzatti was danced by principal Isabella Boylston who has come into her own as one of the luminaries of the company — she was simply superb. The trio of Shades were beautifully inhabited by Sarah Lane, Melanie Hamrick and Misty Copeland, each one a jewel of Ballet Theatre and together they added a further lustre to the proceedings. The corps de ballet, which has been at its rare best in previous performances this season, was, apart from one or two very minor infelicities, dazzling, especially in the celebrated “Dance of the Shades” in Act II, one of the glories of classical choreography.

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