Nature of Entertainment in Circus

Nature of Entertainment in Circus

The circus has been a major source of entertainment for many years and has entertained millions of people. Before the television was invented, the circus would provide families with a major form of entertainment and whole communities would wait in earnest for the annual visit of the wide variety of acts.

The older type of circus performed with wild animals

The Circus would consist of many acts that would be a mixture of animals and people of different shapes and sizes. The skills of the people that would be on show would be so high that they would include international performers. This was particularly the case with the acrobats, the trapeze artists and tightrope walkers. The stunts that would be performed would not have been out of place being seen in Olympic competitions. The whole idea of the circus was to amaze people and the more spectacular the act, the greater reputation the circus would earn, resulting in increased revenue.

There have been many incidents where falls have resulted in loss of life. No family have suffered more than the Wallenda family. In the 1930s Willie Wallenda died after falling from a bicycle stunt on a high wire. This was followed by a Wallenda sister in law dying in the 1950s after falling from a headstand performed on a pole 50 feet in the air. In 1962 a 7 man Wallenda human pyramid, performed 35 metres in the air, collapsed with two members dying and one being permanently paralyzed. Finally in 1972 a Wallenda son in law died after suffering an electric shock while performing on the wire.

Most of these deaths would be avoided today as there are far tighter health and safety controls in place. The circus has greater control on the quality of the wires that are used and also the safety netting that is put in place if artists do make mistakes.

The Chinese State Circus in action

This greater awareness of safety has certainly affected the content of what is being performed in the Circus today. This is certainly true with the types of animals that are used in the circus. In the past the more ferocious the animal, the more popular the act would be. All types of endangered species have been trained to perform. This has included elephants, lions, bears and tigers all being used in performing acts but gradually the governments have passed legislation to stop this. Just keeping a wild animal in captivity for such a purpose is now seen as cruel, and often they were beaten in order to control them in front of an audience.

As time has progressed, the content of the circus has changed. It is still popular with spectacular gymnastic feats, clever jugglers, affable clowns and other entertainers. It has had to adapt to different government policies and had to change in order to still be attractive to audiences that nowadays have so many other entertainments as an option. However there are still circuses that tour the world and attract big audiences. The Chinese State Circus combines jugglers with acrobatics and even martial arts performers, to produce spectacular shows. They may be different from previous years but they are still as popular.

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