Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Royal Canadian Circus dazzles Cold Lake

For the Lakeland Regional.

Aiperi "Aika" Kozugulova hangs off a rope in a full pose at the Royal Canadian Circus on May 31
Eric Bowling
Residents of Cold Lake were served a powerful reminder that there is no business like show business, and there is no show quite like the circus.

The Royal Canadian Circus rolled into town on May 31. In less than seven hours, the Cold Lake Energy Centre was transformed from a coliseum into a carnival with face painting, cotton candy and fun for the whole family.

Two shows were held in the afternoon, one at 4 p.m. and a second at 7:30 p.m. “We’ve been running around all day trying to figure out ways to make this building work for us,” said Ringmaster Joseph Dominick Bauer, who estimates that he has over 100,000 shows under his belt. “We’ve done it – we rented some concrete blocks to tie things to. Every arena is different, we have to strategically figure out where to anchor to.”

Bauer added that the circus is in his blood.

He has been performing since he was three-years-old, though he claims he was involved earlier than that.

“I performed before I was born in my mom’s stomach,” joked Bauer. “She was still performing in the air, and I was up there with her.”

The 253-year-old Zerbini Family circus is a world-renowned collection of classically trained performers. Children and their parents were treated to acrobatic clowns, high flying trapeze acts, and death defying horse riders, to name a few.

Performers had very specific reasons for being in show business.

“It’s about keeping the family tradition going,” explained Cristhian Videla from Argentina, who learned his trade from his father and grandfather. “We’ve been clowning around for 130 years.”
Other performers enjoy the opportunity to see the world that being with the circus gives them.

“You get to see everywhere,” said Kambarov rider Aiperi Kozugulova of Kyrgyzstan, who has been with the circus for seven years. “I get to travel through Mexico, America, Canada, so yeah, that’s the best part I would say. Everywhere I go everything is new.”

Kozugulova added she really would like to see the circus go to Hawaii.

Several of the performers said that while the lifestyle is addictive, safety had to remain a chief concern as injuries and accidents are quite common in the circus.

“If we fall, the ground will always catch us,” joked Videla.

A few acts were unfortunately not shown in the first showing of the night – the Russian Swing was stopped right before it started when one of the performers noticed a safety issue with the rigging of the net.

Bauer, who moonlights as a daredevil when he isn’t working as a ringmaster, had to cancel his Wheel of Destiny act because the wheel itself would not fit inside the arena.

Also, the Zerbini Elephants were not in attendance due to a last minute restriction placed on the show by the Alberta Fish and Game Association.

“The elephants were cleared by the Canadian government, they were cleared by Washington D.C.,” commented Bauer. “Fish and Game decided right before they crossed the border that they wanted another paper. So now it’s getting lawyered.”

Despite the setbacks, the remaining performers put on a great show and left the crowd begging for more.

“Everything is crazy in the circus,” joked Kozugulova.

This was the first time the Zerbini circus had come to Cold Lake as part of an Alberta-wide tour. An earlier show had been scheduled for Fort McMurray, but the show had to be moved to Olds because of the forest fire. The circus opted to run a fundraiser in Olds, where it raised over $40,000 for the Red Cross.

“We try as well. We know what it’s like to have family in need,” noted Bauer. “Everyone needs help sometimes.”

Bauer mentioned earlier on in the day that while the circus tends to be something families get into and stick with, there is always new talent appearing under the big top.

“There’s schools all over North America,” explained Bauer. “People go there, they start training, next thing you know they’re performing. One of the girls in our flying trapeze act, Emily, her first show was with us and she’s doing great.”

So the next time someone suggests you should just run away and join the circus, you might want to take his or her advice.

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