The Circus Comes to the National Mall

Washington Travel Blog

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Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2017: Circus Arts.

The themes for the 2017 annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival were "Circus Arts" and "On the Move: Migration Across Generations". There was no featured country or state this year. Instead, the festival examined the culture of circus life and the shaping of American culture by immigration and migration of diverse peoples.

I was disappointed that there was to be no featured country this year. But, I decided to see what the festival had to say and show about the Circus. There woud likely be many live acts and demosntrations to enjoy. My impression of American circuses was that they were in decline. The famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus closed in May of this year. The Cole Brothers Circus, the last circus I had seen when its big top show came to Northern Virginia in the 1990s, closed in 2016.

Ringmaster.
Displays and activities at this year's Folklife Festival showed that the American circus of today is a regional enterprise. Small circuses from California, Florida, Minnesota, Vermont and elsewhere provided the majority of the talent.

"Circus Arts" encompassed the disciplines of Acrobats, Clowns, Highwire, Juggling, Trampoline and Trapeze. (No animal acts, criticized in recent decades, were included.) The first event scheduled when I arrived at the Mall was a performance by Sailor Circus. However, afternoon temperatires were above 90F (32C) on the National Mall and the show was cancelled. I went over to the Circus Arts exhibit area to find more. There, small venues held continuous demonstration of clowning, juggling, highwire and acrobatics. A popular outdoor exhibit was the trapeeze.

Sailor Circus Juggling.
Young aerialists from Circus Juventus put on a demonstration of techniques they were learning to perform flying trapeeze routines. Most of the Circus Arts demonstrators were young performers, either still in Circus School or early in their performing career.

Real Circus School classes were underway in the Smithsonian's Arts & Industries Building. Circus School programs train young perfomers today, instead of circus acts being handed down within a family group as in the past.

There were some professional circus acts scheduled at the 2017 Festival, but I was not able to see them. (I did see the Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Troupe.from China.) Full circus performances were held in a Big Top constructed on the National Mall. (These were primarily in the evening.)

The other subject of this Festival was On The Move. There really did not seem to be as much activity in this subject as in Circus Arts. A storyteller at the Story Circle described the variety of immigrant groups that had settled in the nothern part of Manhattan. (This was similar to the story told by the musical In The Heights.) In the Arts & Industries Building, Ledward Kaapana played his Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and sang.

Zagnut66 says:
I stopped by on the opening day and watched the trapeze artists and a performance under the big tent. I didn't stay too long, the Festival seems to have been scaled back from previous years.
Posted on: Jul 12, 2017
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Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2017…
Smithsonian Folklife Festival 201…
Ringmaster.
Ringmaster.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Sailor Circus Juggling.
Circus Smirkus Clown.
Circus Smirkus Clown.
Circus Smirkus Clown.
Circus Smirkus Clown.
Circus Smirkus Clown.
Circus Smirkus Clown.
Big Top on the National Mall.
Big Top on the National Mall.
Big Top on the National Mall.
Big Top on the National Mall.
Circus Performers.
Circus Performers.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
Circus Juventus: Flying Trapeze.
She Floats Though the Air with th…
"She Floats Though the Air with t…
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Wall Trampoline.
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Troup…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Trou…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Troup…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Trou…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Troup…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Trou…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Troup…
Hebei Golden Eagle Acrobatic Trou…
Venue Schedule.
Venue Schedule.
Stilt Walker.
Stilt Walker.
Stilt Walker.
Stilt Walker.
Circus School.
Circus School.
Circus School: Junior Juggler.
Circus School: Junior Juggler.
Circus School: Trapeze Masterclass.
Circus School: Trapeze Masterclass.
Arts & Industries Building event s…
Arts & Industries Building event …
Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2017…
Smithsonian Folklife Festival 201…
Storm clouds gathering over the Na…
Storm clouds gathering over the N…
Ledward Kaapana, Hawaiian Slack Ke…
Ledward Kaapana, Hawaiian Slack K…
Ledward Kaapana, Hawaiian Slack Ke…
Ledward Kaapana, Hawaiian Slack K…
Ledward Kaapana, Hawaiian Slack Ke…
Ledward Kaapana, Hawaiian Slack K…
Festival marketplace in the Smiths…
Festival marketplace in the Smith…
85 km (53 miles) traveled
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