FYI/Letters Vol. I No. 4


Saturday April 21, 2012 is World Circus Day.  Don’t forget to celebrate!


A New Partnership Will Aid Circus Scholars

The Fédération Mondiale du Cirque (World Circus Federation) has joined the World Digital Library as an official partner. The World Digital Library (WDL) was conceived by the United States Library of Congress as an Internet-based, easily-accessible collection of the world’s cultural riches that would tell the stories and highlight the achievements of all countries and cultures to promote cross-cultural awareness and understanding. Launched in April 2009, the WDL today features high quality, selected images reflecting the cultural heritage of UNESCO member states. The Federation, together with a group of leading libraries, museums and archives, is ensuring that Circus is included among the digital images of world treasures displayed on the site.

One of the benefits of the WDL is that users can access content from partners around the world on one site. Leading institutions have worked together to identify top treasures related to the history of the circus and users everywhere will be able to access the content, in multiple languages, for free.

Collaborating with the Federation and also accepted as new WDL Partners are the Barnum Museum, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Centro Educativo di Documentazione delle Arti Circensi (CEDAC), Verona, Italy; Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin; Illinois State University, Milner Library, Normal, Illinois; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida; the Musée du Cirque Alain Frère, Tourrette-Levens, France; St. Petersburg Bolshoi Circus Museum of Circus Art, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation; and Somers Historical Society, Somers, New York.

“The WDL partnership provides an unprecedented opportunity to highlight Circus as part of world cultural heritage,” according to Laura van der Meer, Executive Director of the Federation. “But it has also provided a fantastic opportunity for close collaboration among experts from some of the most prestigious museums and archives holding Circus collections in Europe and the United States, a first-ever achievement. We look forward to expanding the initiative to other continents.”

Each institution will be submitting three to four images from their collections for this initial posting of Circus content. The images will show the historical roots of the modern Circus and its formative events, its Golden Age grandeur, Fédération Mondiale du Cirque and its continuing vitality as part of contemporary culture. Final selection and submission of the Circus content to the WDL will be completed this month in a collective celebration of the Third World Circus Day on 21 April 2012.

The WDL partnership is part of the Federation’s ongoing Preservation Project aimed at preserving circus artifacts, history and memory. Circus images will be available at in the coming months in multilingual formats.

For further information:  Laura van der Meer, Federation Executive Director, at, tel +32.2.633.1503Rodney Huey, North American Press Representative, at, tel +1.703.627.1080


Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Opens Submissions for New

 “First of May Award”

$500 development grant for full-length variety arts production

For nearly 20 years, Bindlestiff Family Variety Arts, Inc. has been enriching New York City’s variety arts culture by producting and presenting unparalleled circus, sideshow and variety arts performances.
This year, Bindlestiff is pleased to announce the First of May Award, which will grant $500 to a variety artist or group of variety artists to support their development of an original full-length production.  Submissions are now open to solo artists or troupes wishing to apply for this award.
Submission guidelines:
1. Proposals must include:
  • a 1-page project description
  • links to videos of past work (up to 3)
  • resumé and/or bios of participating artists
2. Proposed productions must be at least 40 minutes in length.
3. Productions may be either solo or troupe-based projects. If submitting as a solo artist, applicant must be a NYC resident.  If submitting as a troupe, at least 50% of troupe members must be NYC residents.
By submitting a proposal, applicants acknowledge that if the award is granted, 1) development of the proposed production must begin prior to June 30, 2012, and 2) at least one public performance of the production must be presented in New York City before December 31, 2012 (a work in progress performance is acceptable).
Deadline: Submissions must be received before midnight on May 1, 2012.

 Circus is Exempt from Funding Cuts in Europe

According to a page one story in the New York Times (March 25, 2012,) European governments, in response to a worsening economic crisis, are suddenly cutting back on their support of culture.  This amounts to something of a revolutionary turn of events.  In Europe, unlike theUnited States, culture is viewed not as a commodity, where market forces determine which deserve to survive, but as a common legacy to be nurtured and protected.   The director of the Austrian Cultural Forum here in theU.S. is quoted as expressing the previously prevailing attitude that “Culture is much higher on our political agenda than it is here, because it is linked to our identity.

In the case of theNetherlandsthe cultural budget is being cut by about 25 percent.  Taxes on ticket prices will rise to 19 percent from the previous six percent.  However, and here is the point of our bringing this to our reader’s attention, movie theatres, sporting events, zoos and CIRCUSES are exempt.  That should tell us something about the perceived necessity inEuropeof making popular entertainment available to the widest audience possible.

Venice Arena Finds a Benefactor

 Efforts are still afoot to save the Venice, Florida, arena where Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey once prepared its new shows each winter, and turn it into a new center of circus arts. The latest attempt at fund raising was the presentation of Cirque Italia’s Aquatic, the first international circus to open inVenice in more than two decades.  As the show’s title suggests this was a spectacular water circus.  It played in a new $2.3 million set donated by the famed Italian circus, which extended a helping hand from across the Atlantic Ocean after owner Manuel Rebbechi learned theVenice circus arena could be torn down in lieu of repairs estimated at $10 million.

“Facebook saved us,” said the renowned flyer Tito Gaona of the Venice Circus Arts Foundation who is spearheading the drive to save the arena. “That’s how he found out about us.”

   The tent and all equipment were lent to the Venice Circus Arts Foundation for a series of 13 fund-raising shows over two weekends.  A portion of every ticket sold was donated to the Venice Circus Arts Foundation for its “save the arena project,” which needs $10 million to renovate the former home of the Greatest Show on Earth, circa 1960-92.



User-Friendly Guide Released in Conjunction with World Circus Day

The Fédération Mondiale du Cirque, under the patronage of H.S.H. Princess Stephanie of Monaco, announces the launch of the International Guide to the Circus, an easy-to-read publication defining 100 key circus terms translated in nine languages. The Guide is being released in conjunction with World Circus Day, Saturday, April 21.

“The International Guide to the Circus is intended to provide an entrée into the wonderful world of Circus,” said Laura van der Meer, Executive Director of the Federation. “The Guide responds to a need identified by academics, historians and archivists for unified Circus terminology. This is the first step in a long-term project designed to increase understanding and appreciation of Circus arts and culture.”

The Guide evolved out of the Federation’s Preservation Project that was created to conserve, preserve and promote the heritage of the Circus at the international level. Unlike most circus glossaries that are arranged alphabetically, the 24-page Guide is categorized by aerial acts, acrobatics, balancing, juggling, daredevil and specialty acts, clowning and performing animals. Terms are illustrated by colorful photos supplied by circuses and participants in the Federation’s annual World Circus Photo Contest.

Printed publications will be distributed to the media in conjunction with World Circus Day events by Circus Joseph Ashton and Webers Circus in Australia; Sirkus Finlandia in Finland; Circus Krone in Germany; Accademia d’Arte Circense, Moira Orfei Circus and Centro Educativo di Documentazione delle Arti Circense (CEDAC) in Italy; Circus Herman Renz in the Netherlands; the Bolshoi Saint-Petersburg State Circus in the Russian Federation; and Brian Boswell’s Circus in South Africa.

In the United States, the Guide will be provided to the media by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Hampton, VA; Atlantic City, NJ and Charleston, WV), Big Apple Circus (Boston), Circus Harmony (St. Louis), Shrine Circus/Hamid Productions (Springfield, MA) and at the Circus Fans Association of America 2012 Convention in Tampa. The Guide also will be available for purchase at the Federation’s online boutique at



 Letters to the Editor

Dear Ernest,

 I just perused the latest online edition of the Spectacle, and I would like to comment on the following paragraph found in your opening words.

 The New England School of Circus Arts is similarly successful in providing professional level instruction in the aerial arts.  But none of these programs have a structured course of study in place that logically leads to graduating finished, professional, circus artists

 I thank you for mentioning our school in your comments and am grateful you recognize the caliber of instruction we strive to offer.  I would invite you to examine our Professional Track training program further because we do have a two year course of study in place intended to graduate finished, professional, circus artists.  Our graduates are on tour with Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey among other esteemed companies.

 Though I do not argue with your final assessment that the American schools are hampered by the lack of government funding, I do hope you can make a trip to our school to see how we are addressing the challenge in a (hopefully) successful manner.


 Serenity Smith Forchion,
Executive Director
New England Center for Circus Arts