The clown is the Achilles’ heel of the world-class Christmas circus in Carré

The Great International Christmas Circus Orchestra, which plays continuously for about three hours, comes from Ukraine. But there is no place for politics in Carré Square. Here an acrobat spins in water and fire, more than thirty horses trot through the arena and a clown with a plate of spaghetti hops over a broom thrown around. During the World Christmas Circus, the world outside Carré has nothing to do with the world inside Carré, and that is quite evident. Escape from the piste into the hills.

Traditionally, horses play a major role during the annual Christmas Circus on the Amstel, which was canceled in the past two editions due to Corona. Kevin Richter opened the evening with Hungarian Post, a song in which he eventually trains no fewer than 22 horses through the paddock while standing on a horse galloping around. Later, his father Florian Richter – also the program director – follows a unique form of dressage: a choreography of horses in which Arabs, Dutch Frisians and Irish reformers simultaneously trot on the track. Together the two close the first half with classic jockey action, with acrobats somersaulting on fleeing horses, or jumping from one horse to another.

They’re nice songs, but they’re also predictable, and it’s not the actions that stick with you. Most impressive are the quieter (aerial) acrobats generously provided by the program, including De Luna Girls, Laura Miller and the Flahs of Splash. The Kolev Sisters also stands out with their beautiful, physically heavyweight pas-de-deux in which two on-the-floor acrobats unite strength and balance in a series of lifts, manual benches, and seemingly physically impossible maneuvers.

The Kevin Richter Springboard Set comes with a swing, a thick mat, eleven performers, and multiple quad backflips.
Photo by Thierry Bessat

Good balance

The 36th edition of The World Christmas Circus finds a good balance between quiet action and more energetic action. The second half begins with a dynamic, thrilling double wheel of death number and ends with an exhilarating and infectious group number from the Kevin Richter Springboard group with a swing, a thick mat, eleven performers and multiple quadruple backflips. One of the best songs of the evening is the discreet but very inventive juggling act of Chris Cremo and his son Harrison, who can do magic with hats, balls and boxes. There are also a few songs that make you shrug your shoulders, like a sword swallower who performs some variations on the same trick and clown-style stuntman Konstantin Muravyev’s ‘The Fat Man’, whose act stumbles into everything too – an appetite-sparing parody of beer-drinking fat men.

In any case, the clown has again become the Achilles’ heel of the World Christmas Circus this year. Venezuelan clown Henry Ayala serves up some uninspired and absurd snacks. His spaghetti action at the restaurant is a lackluster adaptation of the classic clown number, in which all originality has been categorically filtered. Furthermore, he regularly falls into excruciating sexism in his dealings with female spectators or when he falsely grabs a bra from his opponent. Only when he engages in tightrope action just before the closing number and happily spins the tightrope on a unicycle, or jumps rope at lightning speed, does it become clear where his true expertise lies: if only he limited himself to the rope that stretches high over the slopes.

It is also unfortunate that ringmaster Fred Butter lacks any personality. He outdoes himself in the cliches that numbers speak together: from cliches like “the clown awakens the child in you” to empty statements like “Carrey is really only Carrey when the circus wins.” As the Ukrainian orchestra begins the final number and hoists a small artificial Christmas tree toward the edge of the stage, he wishes all visitors a wonderful Christmas and “May all your days be circus days”.

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