A very special circus is back in the Big Apple–it’s namesake, the “Big Apple Circus.” The non-profit organization, celebrates it’s 35th anniversary this year with “Legendarium,” a tribute to circus history; its acts, and some of the people and places that made them famous. To do so, circus acts have been gathered from around the world, performing for audiences in this intimate single-tent theater that allows for just about everyone to get close-up view.
But for one husband-wife circus couple, “traveling with the circus” takes on a new meaning. Emily Weisse, is a ballerina hailing from Paris, and Menno Van Dyke, a juggler from Amsterdam and together, the duo has created a new choreography hybrid known as the “Juggling Tango.” They’ve also “created” another challenge for themselves–juggling-an infant son as they travel from city to city for performances.
Emily comes from a traditional dance background. Her partner Menno, is from a circus background with a juggling specialty. Both were inspired by tango virtuoso Astor Piazzolla, and they worked to figure out a routine incorporating both their talents and passion of tango. After about ten months of creating the routine and another almost two years refining it, they are introducing the “Juggling Tango,” to audiences in the United States. It must be seen to truly appreciate the difficulty in what they’ve put together.
Juggling the Circus Life
This circus experience is different for them than others past. The couple has had a baby boy, now four-months-old, who travels with them. “He was seven weeks old when we came here,” Emily says. “We wanted him to be comfortable, so we made sure to have a regular bed (crib) for him. We bring our own things; we feel like we’re a family and always try to make every apartment, hotel or trailer as cozy as possible. We are here to be together; we feel like a family that’s just changing places. I think it’s actually harder for our family members left at home without us,” she notes.
The couple says one key to their travel success is to make sure to have someone they trust taking care of their baby during parts of the show in which they’re performing. Their babysitter? The mother of Elayne Kramer, a sixth-generation circus performer and contortionist from Argentina who is traveling with this circus as well. They describe the circus as a family unto itself, where folks help each other out.
“He’s a happy baby. We try not to be stressed. Babies will sense that,” Emily says. Husband Menno adds, “We sense that he likes to meet the people. He likes our circus life. But we make sure to adjust our schedules. We split them so we can spend a lot of time with him.”
Advice from World Travelers
When asked what some of their key advice is for those traveling with young ones, Emily says, “With a baby, always take medicine you’re comfortable with. Especially if you’re traveling to another country where they may not have what you’re used to.” Other things to think about in this same vein include baby formula. Emily reminds travelers to bring as much as you need for the duration of the trip, otherwise you may end up having to do what they did–transition their baby to a formula they weren’t familiar with. Menno says successful travel with young children means preparedness. “Think things over 2-4 times. Passports, visas for small children, you need to prepare sometimes even before they’re born! Know how long it will take for everything to come together, and what kind of documentation you may be asked for.” They both added not to forget an electronic converter when traveling abroad!
They say the great thing about traveling with the circus is if they have questions, they ask fellow circus “family members” who hail from local venues. They both agree it’s key to explore the cities they’re in when they first arrive, and to find out what the locals like to do. In New York, for instance, they’ve discovered Central Park and are taking advantage of it while the weather is good. They’ve also been taking in Broadway shows. If you were to head to their hometowns for travel, Emily says not to miss the allure of the bakeries and cafes in Paris, and to put a walk throughMontmartre on your itinerary. Menno says in Amsterdam, rent a bike and ride all over the small streets and canals to take in the scenery and the markets. Both agree, you can take your children with you anywhere you go–with the proper planning.
One of the most special things they say they’ve been a part of in their travels in New York is the, “Circus of the Senses.” This special Big Apple Circus performance is done for children who are vision or hearing impaired. Following the performance, which is described as it happens, children are allowed to touch the props and meet the performers. “We’d never done something like that before. It was amazing. They like to see, touch, it’s just beautiful,” Emily says.
I Want to Join The Circus
For those parents whose kids REALLY do want to run off and join the circus, Menno suggests they be allowed to pursue their dreams. “Get them into circus school,” he says with Emily adding, “See if the talent is there. And know you have to work, because talent is nothing without the work. But don’t push it too late. If a child wants to do it, do it as soon as possible.” The Big Apple Circus has a program called “Circus After School” providing opportunities for at-risk youth in New York and Boston to “develop life skills” through learning and performing circus arts. And for adults who may still hold a secret fantasy? A reminder that these days it’s easier than ever to have fun learning juggling, clowning, silks, aerial straps and trapeze. In New York alone, there are plenty of options including Trapeze School New York, New York Circus Arts, and the annual NY Clown Theater Festival.
Emily and Menno aren’t the only family traveling together in this Big Apple Circus either. Russian aerial strap/silk artist Ekaterina Stepanova is the daughter of Malvina Abakarova, who is featured separately in Desire of Flight-as part of an acrobatic aerial duo who works without a safety net. But having family together on the road is provides a different sort of safety net.
Following Manhattan, the Big Apple Circus travels on to Atlanta, Georgia, NJ venues, Boston, Massachusetts, Queens, New York, Charlestown, Rhode Island and Lake George, New York.
“We get to profit from traveling
the world. But understand a lot of free time goes into the normal daily stuff like doing lots of laundry,” Menno says. “It takes a little bit to get settled-but by the end you feel at home and like you live there yourself.”