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What better to ring in the holidays than with New York’s home-grown Big Apple Circus, presenting a whimsical marriage of traditional theater and classic circus under its colorful Big Top in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park? The 41st Edition, running through January 27th, presents up-close family entertainment and thrills from celebrated acts – many seen for the first time, in its intimate, climate-controlled one-ring tent, with no seat more than 50 feet away.
Stephanie Monseu breaks through the canvas ceiling as Big Apple’s first ringmistress. Perennial favorite Jenny Vidbel, one of the reasons to never miss the Big Apple Circus, returns to captivate audiences with her majestic and quite nosy stallions, white dwarf horses, and delight with a wild and wooly set of rescued dogs. Also returning are two super spectacular acts: the Flying Tunizianis, performing on double wide trapezes, led by Ammed Tuniziani, who last season thrilled with heart-stopping quadruple somersaults; and Desire in Flight, recipient of the Golden Clown Award at this year’s Monte Carlo Circus Festival for their dual aerial silk traps act. The lineup also features Duo Fusion, acrobatic husband and wife team Virginia Tuells and Ihosvanys Perez offering a twist (she does the heavy lifting!); Emil Faltyn, balancing on a free-standing ladder; trampoline antics from Andréanne Quintal; and award-winning, gravity-defyingjuggler Victor Moiseev.
Amid the sawdust, cotton candy, hot dogs slathered with mustard and relish, and ice-cold beverages, there’ll be red-hot music from Rob Slowik’s little big band.
Outside the ring there’ll be plenty of sizzle. Audiences enter into the new Hall of Wonder with photo-opt worthy fun activities and tasty locally-sourced culinary bites. The over-21 set can enjoy cocktails from three-time American Bartender of the Year winner Pamela Wiznitzer.
Big Apple Circus continues its community outreach programs. Circus of the Senses performances, a much-lauded special event since introduced in 1997 by theater executive Anne Tramon, are December 6 and 7. Circus of the Senses, developed by Tramon, Carl Anthony Tramon, and Lisa Lewis, showcasesenhanced experiences for audiences with autism, visual and auditory challenges. The performance features ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices with audio commentary, pre- and post-show touch therapy experiences, and a Braille program. The team has also developed Dinner in the Dark for the night of December 6, which begins with a 5 P.M. with a multi-course “dinner in the dark” in the BAC VIP lounge provided by Camjae Bistro of Macdougal Street in Geenwich Village followed by the 7 P.M. performance. Audience members will wear blindfolds, with audio descriptive headsets, in order to show what special needs participants experience. All-inclusive tickets for this special performance are $150 and available at dinnerandashowinthedark.eventbrite.com (for organizational group discounts to this event, contact
BAC’s Circus for All initiative offers $10 tickets to 11 performances to underprivileged children and underserved schools. The circus also devises student lesson plans from the acts they witness firsthand
Directing the 41st BAC edition is Mark Lonergan, artistic director of physical theater company Parallel Exit; with choreography by Grady McLeod Bowman. Costumes are by Amy Clark (Wicked, Little Mermaid, Chaplin); with scenery by Emmy-nominated Anita La Scala (Sochi Winter Olympics, opening ceremony) and Rob Bissinger (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark).
Tickets for the Big Apple Circus are $29 - $195, available at the Damrosch Park box office and at www.Ticketmaster.com. Group discounts are available. For morning, afternoon, and evening show times, visit www.bigapplecircus.com.
Paris – Paris, City of Lights, Amour, Museums, and grand architecture is also the city of spectacular Cabaret and home to the can-can, which thrives to this very day.
It began in the 1860s with the music hall that gave birth to the Folies-Bergere, 32 rue Richer, famed for Art Nouveau posters, jawdropping costumes by Ertè, ballet pantomimes, and lavish tableaux and frequented by Zola, Manet, and Toulouse-Lautrec. It maintains a lavish theatre, but in 2006 reverted to concert programming and musicals, including Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret and Gipsy Kings, John Cameron, and Stephen Clark’s Zorro. Another fabled cabaret, the Casino de Paree, 16 Rue de Clichy, has gone the concert and special attractions route of the Folies.
But spectacle lives on at the Moulin Rouge, Lido de Paris, and Pardis Latin.
Established in 1889, as “The palace of the dance and women,” the cabaret in the heart of [now] seedy Montmartre, at 82 Rue de Clichy, claimed to be “more luxurious, bigger, and more elegant" than those that existed, and with its huge windmill, it became a beacon for locals for romantic rendezvous and a must for tourists. It’s the mecca where Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized the French cancan. It still is performed by the Doriss Girls, which have included Jane Avril, muse of Toulouse-Lautrec, in the long-running revue Fèerie.
The show features a cast of 100 global artists, which includes singers, variety acts, and 60 women, performing twice every evening in the grand tradition of the French music-hall. Showgirls wear elaborate headdresses and hundreds of costumes of every imaginable kind of feathers, Swarovski crystals, and sequins [created in their own shops with a staff of 30].
Féerie, which will celebrate 18 years in December, was two years and nine million in the making – four million Euros on costumes alone.
According to public relations manager Fanny Rabasse, “We are the long-run champion, akin to Broadway’s Chicago, Les Miserables, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera. We keep the show fresh, and, with our large backstage staff, are always making new costumes when dry-cleaning is not enough. The costumes are the most important part of the show, not the lack of them. We welcome children from age six. Some dancers are topless, but always with feathers and jewelry. So, it’s not shocking. From beginning to end, it’s the same show. Only the dancers, singers, and acts change.”
You might think that after so long a run, with no immediate plans for a new revue, Parisians don’t come. “The reverse is true,” says Mademoiselle Rabasse. “I recall when our audiences were 70% tourist. Now, it’s 50%. In 2015, which was a bad year for France, we had 60% French. Tourists were afraid, but the natives wanted to show resolve and were not afraid to go out.”
The show “pays a tribute to Parisian women throughout the years,” with various music genres. Music is no longer live, but the original score and cancan music was recorded by 80 musicians and a 60-member chorus. The stage is not exceptionally deep and because the building is almost 130 years old, the roof cannot be raised to accommodate flies.
Among centerpieces are a giant aquarium, pirate ship, a “Gorgon” [think Medusa] in her temple surrounded by pythons, and a circus that comes to life with clowns, tantalizing [human] tigresses, Siamese twins, acrobats, jugglers, and miniature horses. Then, of course, comes the most-anticipated moment: the cancan.
Shows have been created since the 60s by Doris Haug, a German woman who joined the company in 1957 and went on to become its first ballet mistress – thus, the Doriss Girls, and Ruggero Angeletti. Since 1997, ballet mistress Janet Pharaoh, now also artistic director, travels the world to recruit dancers of both sexes. Choreography is by Bill Goodson, famed for his artistry throughout Europe and who’s worked with Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Gloria Estefan.
Dancer criteria includes classical ballet training, with the height requirement for women at least 5’8”, and 6’3” for the men. Weight and hair length are carefully monitored.Except for such occasions as the 2015 visit to New York for a performance in Times Square for a Best of France fashion event, the Moulin Rouge stays in Paris. It doesn’t tour because it would be impossible to duplicate the physical plant and staging. “The Moulin Rouge is the stars,” says Mademoiselle Rabasse.Because of tiers, there are no bad sightlines among the tables seating 900. As always, the closer and more expensive choices are best.
There are two dinner menus by executive chef David Le Quellec, a veteran of several Michelin-starred restaurants, which include vegetarian and vegan choices. The list of Champagnes, wines, and cocktails is vast. Dinner is optional. Show-only ticket holders are admitted an hour after doors opens. Attire: smart dress-casual to formal. There is dancing to a small orchestra until showtime. For more information, visit www.moulin-rouge.com.
Lido de Paris
Established on the Champs-Elysées some 70 years ago, the Lido became the chief rival to the Moulin Rouge. Now, in an elegant, state-of-the-art venue at 116 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the heart of the boulevard, it attracts over a half million annually for nightly shows and matinees.There has long been name-recognition for the Lido in the States because in Vegas in the pre-Cirque du Soleil days, from 1955-1992, Donna Arden duplicated the review at the Stardust. The Lido has long featured the long-limbed Bluebell Girls, an ensemble founded by Irish native and émigré to the U.K. Margaret Kelly, who until her retirement in 1986, hand-selected each dancer. Mainly performing high precision and semi-burlesque numbers, the 45 global dancers are noted for their statuesque height, averaging 5’11”. There are only 10 Belles, who go topless.They are hand-picked from all over the world by ballet mistress British native Jane Sansby, to headline in $40,000-$50,000 outfits created on site by a large crew to sparkle with Swarovski crystals and sequins and the requisite feathered headdresses. Among the cast are two Americans, a Belle; and a male, who’s a principle dancer.
Rigorous dancing requires specific qualities both artistic and physical, so the selection process must be very focused. Then, there a training period, sometimes up to five weeks, and rehearsals are frequent.According to Sansby, Bluebells, Bells, and the six soloists [usually at least or close to 6’ tall] work two shows nightly, at 9 and 11. While there’s not an alternate cast, there’s an ensemble of swings to cover days off and holidays. “It’s a well-oiled machine,” she says. “It’s a machine that turns and has to turn seven days. There’s a lot of planning to make sure we have covers.”
A former Lido trademark, other than the huge finale cancan, was a tracked ceiling where all manner of props and artists sailed over the heads of thousands of audience members. That’s all gone.
In 2006, the Lido was purchased by Sodexo Sports & Loisirs (Leisure), which also owns the Bateaux boats cruising the Seine and numerous brands and services in 80 countries. In December2014, the venue closed for three months for a 25-million Euro reinvention. “For three years,” says Sodexo GM and Lido president Nathalie Belton-Szabo, “I travelled the world seeing shows with only one goal in mind: the creation of one that would delight spectactors and make them dream. Each time I used the word ‘Lido,’ I saw the sparkles in people’s eyes. The hard part was to create a new and unique revue.”
That led to meeting Franco Dragone, the Belgian-Italian theater director who, with his company, created shows for DisneylandParis, several editions of Cirque du Soleil, such as O at Vegas’ Bellagio, and, also in Vegas, Celine Dion’s A New Day and the Wynn’s Le Rève.
“Franco shared the same love for the Lido as I do,” Madmemoiselle Belton-Szabo adds. “After studying 26 editions, he invented our gem. Paris Merveilles [Wonders] has Bluebells, feathers, sequins, music, amazing dance, and a first class kitchen. Everything that makes the soul of the Lido remains, but it has been infused with a daring boldness, extravagance, and surprises.”
To take advantage of the panoramic width of the room, there are five HD LED screens, the largest of which covers the up-stage entirety, whose projections transport audiences to numerous Paris fantasies – one of the most impressive is the opening tour of Paris. And, for the first time in Lido’s history, a singer is at the heart of the revue, Manon [Trinquier], the mezzo-soprano discovered on the 2014 French The Voice, where she reached the semi-finals.
Says Dragone, “To create my first show in Paris at such a legendary cabaret, was demanding. It was the sort of challenge that forces you to push and surprise yourself in order to captivate audiences. I put my dreams, heart and soul into the seven wonders of Paris Merveilles. My goal was not only to catch the eye, but also touch the soul of and bring joy to each spectator in a world that is increasingly disenchanted.”
The Bluebells and Belles [choreographed by Benoit-Swan Pouffer] and a 15-strong male ensemble do 90-minute shows, no intermission. There’re 600 costumes tailor-made by Nicolas Vaudelet, former associate of Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix, some with optical effects -- featuring feathers, rhinestones, rich fabrics, and top quality furs that cost thousands of euros. Trivia: over 200 pounds of ostrich feathers, dyed pink, are hand-fastened to the petticoats of the 27 cancan dancers. There are also haute-couture gowns and male and feminine tuxedos. There are 22 dressers for quick changes. Sets are by Oscar and Emmy-nominated and two-time [French] César winner Jean Rabasse.A visit backstage with technical director Frederic Bacquet and service supervisor Minh Ma Van, in charge of hydraulic effects, is beyond mind-boggling. They make the ice rink for skaters, pool of dancing fountains, and 16½’ beauties-laden chandelier made up of 40,000 pearls emerge from the depths; and the monumental Art Nouveau staircase descend from the flies for the parade of Bluebells. If you are among those in premium seating, your rows descend to floor level so you are right onstage with the dancers, singers, and acrobats.
Van is also in charge of raising and lowering the “magical” 45-instrument mechanical orchestra which provides pre-show dance music. The show score, infused with dozens of musical styles by Yvan Cassar and Belgian singer Saule, is pre-recorded.
For tickets, schedules, photos, and more information, visit www.lido.fr.
This celebrated Parisian variety and burlesque cabaret on the Rive Gauche, 28 rue de Cardinal Lemoine, the only one located on the Left Bank is the entertainment gem of the Latin Quarter and only two blocks to the Seine and incredible views of NotreDame. The new review, in its second year, is as steeped in glamour and sex appeal as it is in history.
Designed by Gustave Eiffel – yes, that Eiffel – and now fully restored after a long ago closure, ParadisLatin is a landmark. It dates back to 1803, when it was authorized by none other than NapoleonBonaparte [However, the foundation dates to 13th Century, when it was constructed over the ancient walls of Paris – built by King PhilippeAuguste. In 1870, during the Franco Prussian War, the theatre and entire 5th Arrondissement were torched to the ground.
Seven years later, Eiffel did a complete restoration while he was building the EiffelTower. When it reopened in 1887, it was considered the most elegant hall in Paris.
The Paradis Latin has a special place, unique among the cabarets of Paris. It withstood the vagaries of French history, from the time of Napoleon to its surprising and well-deserved renaissance in the 20th Century.
In the late 60s, it fell into disrepair and the property was about to be transformed into apartments when Eiffel’s metal structure was uncovered along with scenery, paintings, gilt columns, and posters. The showplace had a multi-million dollar renaissance in 1977, with its glory restored. Paradis Latin is operated with strong historic and hands-on devotion by the Israel family: father, Sidney; and son, Harold.The authenticity of this legendary cabaret seems to infuse the welcoming personnel with a real sense of pride and of belonging.
Though smaller in size than the Moulin Rouge and Lido, Paradis Latin’s show is in many ways more fun, more exciting, and more audience friendly – not to mention being a bit easier on the wallet.
The stage may not be Cinerama-width, but there’s no shortage of talent: 35 dancers, singers, a juggler, aerial acrobat, contortionists, and BusbyBerkeley-inspired moments. There’s a roving camp comic entertaining and teasingly provoking in the 10-minute pre-show, then 15 scenes.
The troupe of 35 execute sexy burlesque sketches that range from performers as roses and gardeners to a take on Romeo and Juliet, motorcycle babes, pom-pom girls, and a lavish tribute to romance, Paradis d’Amour. The 15 numbers proceed at breakneck speed. The energetic cancan is pure French and so well-staged and executed it would please Toulouse-Lautrec. Costuming, where there are costumes, is ultra glam and colorfully done with feathers, rhinestones, wigs, and elaborate headdresses. There’s nothing Paradis Latin can’t do on its stage – and it’s sans computers. Yes, the show goes on the old-fashioned way with stagehands as the computers.
That said, there are some jaw-dropping surprises, such as an aerialist descending from the balcony on a trapeze.In a departure from other burledque cabarets, there’s brief nudity from a very hunky male ensemble frolicking in a locker room; and, in a throwback to the old music hall days, the waiters appear in a walk-on. The dapper, dressed-to-the-nines master of ceremony reels off his patter in three languages. ChanteuseNatalie’s songs are a mix of French and English. There’s one 90 minute show per evening. Dinner service at four-tops and long tables for groups is excellent, but you can come for just drinks and the show.For reservations, schedule, pricing or to book Paradis Latin for special events, visit www.paradislatin.com.
Paris, France -- Paris: City of Lights, City of Love, fine food, wine, and cheese; and which has long been an inspiration for artists, novelists, and composers. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and home to the world’s most renowned museums – not to mention, the Eiffel Tower and popular entertainment venues.
Do you ever have as much time in Paris as you desire? And each time you visit, you wish you’d discovered more. Rosemary Flannery and Madison King, two ex-pats, now longtime Parisians, can help make the time you have more valuable and memorable. They’re part of the team of luxury tour service American Concierge, which custom designs itineraries for one, two, a group, a family. The word “concierge” is important here, because they personally guide you during your visit – arranging pickups, dinner reservations, entry fees (so there's never waiting in line), tickets for opera [don’t miss the tour of the breathtaking splendor of the Palais Garnier Opera (with the box reserved for the Phantom!) and cabaret spectaculars.Tours are quite flexible because you create them. The list is endless. Of course, it all comes at a price – and while not bargain-basement you have to weigh the convienence of have experts arrange everything for you.
Some choices to consider: a French cooking lesson, cheese tasting and full lunch in a private home, jazz clubs, cruises on the Seine, even visits outside the city, say to Versailles. Among areas, you might not wander into is Saint Martin, where you’ll find plays in stunning Rocco theatres from the 1850s, triumph archways that welcomed legions in eras past, and the modestly-priced four-star Art Deco restaurant Julien.
Paris is home to some of the most exciting cabaret spectaculars in the world:the Moulin Rouge in the cheeky Latin Quarter, the Lido de Paris right on the Champs Élysées, the Crazy Horse on Rue George V right in the middle of it all, and, the oldest and least expensive of cabarets, Paradis Latin, on the Left Bank, built on a charter from Napoleon and by Eiffel, near the Pantheon, where the show’s as wild as the food and champagne’re excellent. Mademoiselle Flannery, Monsieur King, and resident concierges will escort you by Metro, taxi, or private car. The concierges also know choice locations for petit déjeuner (breakfast) with fresh pastries, croissants, teas, hot chocolate, and decadent chocolate and macaroons. Their experience enhances your Paris experience – and, considering the personal service American Concierge offers, rates are affordable.
A popular tour is the three-hour Nightlights, an evening ride, perhaps with Monsieur King, who’ll sweep you through Paris in a late model sedan, luxury van, or vintage auto for stops at the Trocadero for a glittering light spectacular of the Eiffel Tower, down the Champs-Élysées past the Grand Palais, hopping out at the majestic Arc de Triomphe, then on to the Latin Quarter, Sorbonne, and monuments such as the Pantheon, and on across the Île de la Cité to the doors of Notre Dame; and, finally, across the Pont-Neuf to one of the City’s highest points and famed Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. If you're passionate about the arts and books, Mademoiselle Flannery has a memorable tour of museums -- not only the grandeur of the Pompidou, D'Orsay, and Louvre but also prized private collections at the Jacquemart-André, Marmottan-Monet, Nissim de Camondo, and Louis Vuitton Foundation Musees – not to mention Rodin masterworks in Les Tuileries on the way to the Musee de l’Orangerie [home of Monet’s “Water Lilies"].
“As anyone who has visited Paris knows,” states Ms. Flannery, “it’s easy to fall in love with its culture, beauty, and the way of life in diverse communities. As we guide visitors, our goal at American Concierge is to make you feel at home and share our love of the City in a way that will make you never forget it.”
American Concierge is the brainchild of partners Sharon Carr, who splits time between New York and Paris, and Ivan Zatkovich. The Paris-based chief operating officer is Guy Didier, former president of Paramount Pictures, France.
For more information on dozens of tours, pricing, and personal blogs by the company’s ex-pats, call (866) To-Paris (867-2747) or visit www.AmericanConcierge.com.
Peru may be too far for a day trip, but Greenwichites can find Peruvian treasures right here in Connecticut. Round Hill Alpacas, some 100 miles away in Coventry, is home to 26 of these Andean camelids whose fiber makes silky, luxurious wool.
Meeting the source of your sweater is more exciting than it sounds. Alpacas are gentle, personable souls, as a visit to Round Hill farm quickly bears out. They’re not like their llama cousins, who can easily get peevish and aggressive. Alpacas let you come close and pet their long necks. Just be careful not to aim for the tops of their heads. Their sweet, long-lashed eyes give them great peripheral vision, but what these animals don’t see can alarm them and test their indulgence.
The farm’s owners, Randy and Cindy Hall (above and below), got into the alpaca business some seven years ago. Their vision? To found an inclusive farmstead living experience especially for individuals with developmental disabilities, such as their autistic son. The nonprofit they've founded and are developing is called the Creative Living Community of Connecticut. Alpacas are as curious about you as you are about them. If only New Yorkers were as friendly and trusting.
These social herd animals are happy to nosh treats right out of your palm. Just ask Noah Blum what it feels like. The 2½-year-old resident of Providence, Rhode Island will describe the tickle of the alpacas' rubbery upper gums and the soft nudge of their fur-covered lips. Noah is pictured below with his mom, Alessandra, and Randy Hall.
Two weeks ago Round Hill welcomed a new member of the herd. Born during the Olympics in Brazil, he was named Rio. Fun fact: the gestation period for alpacas is 11 1/2 months.
Noah and Rio say Olá. Guess where Noah was born? As chance would have it, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Noah's father, Joey, facilitates the encounter.
With names like Popcorn, Kahlúa and Pebbles, alpacas are a chromatic delight. The herd at Round Hill sport earthy tones from creamy eggshell and rosy grey to tawny russet and smokey charcoal.
Why hasn’t Hollywood come out with a major animation starring alpacas?
Maybe because they’re so adorably cartoon-like as is, it’d almost be redundant.
Not everyone is chill. Rusty, the Alpha male of the herd, gets his own enclosure. For good reason. Otherwise Macho Man and second-in-command Simon would go at it, and things could get ugly. To defend his privileged notch in the pecking order, a free-to-mingle Rusty would engage in spitting and fighting if not worse.
A hyper-cautious Rusty takes his time in approaching, but with Randy's coaxing he takes some grassy snacks. Note the erect ears. That's his short code for, "We're cool." Now look again at the photo above and see how Rusty's spear-shaped ears are cocked back, ready for action if need be. The positioning of his tail and head also speaks volumes. Alpacas are famous for communicating by humming, but their body language gets across important cues to keep life safe and ordered.
To top off our visit, we followed Cindy, Randy and two alpacas to the F.A.R.E Market in the nearby town of Willimantic, CT. After lunch (no hay pellets for us, thanks), we stocked up on socks and, of course, souvenirs!
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