Dragons (Ringling Bros.), U.S. tour

Written by:
Suzanne Weiss
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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Produced by Nicole Feld and Alana Feld
Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif., Aug. 8-12, 2012
HP Pavilion, San Jose, Aug. 15-19, 2012
(and other cities on U.S. tour)

Lions and tigers and dragons, oh my! The little girl’s eyes were wide with wonder as we descended what seemed like a million steps into the Oracle Arena. There were flashing lights and people everywhere. “Grandma, I’m scared,” she whispered. “No you’re not,” I snapped and dragged her down the steps as fast as her 4-year-old legs would go. Her brother, all of 5, was already in his seat, clown hat on his head, ready to go. And it turned out that Zoe wasn’t really scared at all. The dragons (really only one but he was a gorgeous creature) didn’t eat people and only breathed a little green fire. And the elephants were really cool (“Are they real?” she asked). And when the horses, who were moving beautifully in unison decided to relieve themselves – also in unison – she wanted to know if that was real too.

The adults, the children’s mother and I, accustomed to years of arty, alternative circuses, were reminded of their childhood when the “Big Circus,” Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey was the real deal. Guess what? It still is. Especially when seen through the eyes of a kid.

The clowns are really funny (Zoe loved the part when they re-enacted “Rapunzel” in a zany attempt to rescue a princess from a tower because 4-year-old girls like princesses). If the male lion was a tad mangy he was still huge enough to inspire awe and the tigers snarled in a way that made big brave brother Josh jump into my lap. Trainer Alexander Lacey seemed to have them under control though, even coaxing a kiss from Masai, the big lion. (Yuck!)

Who knew that pussycats could jump through hoops and poodles walk tightropes? Well, we do now. And there were guys who jumped high in the air and ended up on each other’s shoulders off a teeter totter that looked just like the one in the playground at Zoe’s nursery school. She counted four because that’s as high as she can count but there were really five piled up in the air at one time. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Josh, who takes karate lessons, especially loved the “Kung Fu Guys,” the Shaolin Warriors who break metal and wooden bars, ostensibly by the power of concentration, and the Kung Fu Masters who can jump through a burning ring of steel blades. “I’m gonna do that some day,” he vowed. “I just hafta practice more.”

They were less impressed by the trapeze artist and high fliers who are the real stars of any circus, as their mother and I well know, but the round cage full of motorcyclists, circling each other until they were a blur, caught everybody’s interest. Mom and I thought they were the most exciting of all. With the entrance of that fire-breathing dragon the whole thing was over and everybody stumbled wearily out in search of their cars. But, before we went our separate ways, a little voice whispered as I bent down for a goodnight kiss, “Grandma, can we come back again tomorrow?”

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