Big Apple Circus Review


Odbayasakh Dorjoo, Big Apple Circus. Click for more photos.

As I noted last year in my Big Apple Circus review, one of the unexpected benefits of parenthood is discovering fun events for the kids…that parents actually enjoy. Big Apple Circus has been an annual event in our family for the past eight years, one that my wife and I look forward to as much as our daughter. The circus is held every year in New York City at a tent at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. The venue is cozy, with only 16 rows of seats surrounding the ring and no seat more than 50 feet from ringside.

Each season has a theme. Last year’s theme was Luminosity, a tribute to the real world circus of New York City’s Times Square featuring performers as construction workers, hot dog vendors, sign painters, corporate executives, all surrounded by New York landmarks. I thought it worked well. In contrast, I really don’t understand this year’s theme of Metamorphosis and how the performances relate to this subject. What is being transformed from what to what is never really explained and left to audience members to figure out. I never did.


Francesco the Clown, Big Apple Circus. Click for more photos.

I enjoyed the performances, although I think it was more entertaining last year. Highlights this year included Odbayasakh Dorjoo, a Mongolian contortionist who laid on her stomach with her legs circled around her head. She then shifted her position until she fit into a small cube. Tatevik Seyranyan, a great juggler and contortionist from the U.S., closed the cube. Tatevik then opened the cube and then somehow slithered into the cramped cube with Odbayasakh inside. I haven’t seen people jammed together in such a tight space since flying recently in the coach section on a plane trip.

The nerdy-looking Tatevik juggled later in the performance while standing on a support board on several cylinders-all while keeping a hula-hoop going. She then discarded the hoop and juggled on five cylinders. Quite impressive. She comes from an award winning circus family with over 30 years of entertaining audiences worldwide.

Giovanni Anastasinis and Irene Espana wowed the crowed with their highflying Aerial Spaceship act in which they were high in the air at the other end of a circulating spaceship performing various acrobatic movements. At one point, she hung upside down supported by the top of her feet hanging on a bar. If she wore a safety harness, she hid it well. If she didn’t wear a safety device…that’s really dangerous given how high she was. Also noteworthy were the Smirnov Duo from Russia, who somehow completely changed costumes numerous times without anyone knowing how they did it.


John Kennedy Kane, Big Apple Circus. Click for more photos.

John Kennedy Kane was the jovial and able Ringmaster, introducing the acts and entertaining the crowd. Francesco the Clown provided comical interludes. At times his act stretched on too long as the crowd eagerly anticipated the next act. I did like his act of keeping a ping-pong ball aloft using frying pans (see first photo above).

Jenny Vidbel returned this year as the animal trainer with camels, llamas, dogs, and even a porcupine. The Aniskin Troupe from Russia concluded the show with a traditional, dazzling high-flying trapeze act.

The Big Apple Circus was founded in 1974 and is a not-for-profit performing arts institution. The troupe performs at Lincoln Center until January 11, then on to Bridgewater, NJ from February 26-March 15, Boston from Marcy 24-May 10, Queens from May 17-June 14, with Autism Friendly shows from March 10-June 12.


See my website for photos I took of The Big Apple Circus. The circus is photography friendly, allowing photos but no flash or video. I used a Canon T2i with a 70-200mm f4L non-IS zoom. The T2i is a mid-level somewhat compact DSLR designed and priced for consumers rather than professionals. I sat on the side of the ring and the lighting conditions were challenging due to the darkness and contrasting light. Most of the photos were at 3200 ISO with a shutter speed between 1/250-1/320. With 3200 ISO, the photos were a bit grainy, so I used Topaz de-noise software. Overall, shots of slowly moving objects turned out fine. However, shots of fast moving acrobats doing somersaults were blurry and generally out of focus. I would think that a more responsive sports camera would shine in the dim light with fast moving objects, with higher ISO and greater autofocus capabilities. I guess that’s why a professional camera like the Canon EOS 1 DX costs $6,800 (body only) and a 70-200 f2.8L IS retails for $2,500 over my equipment (about $600 for the T2i and $700 for the 700-200 f4L).