Who amongst us hasn’t wanted to run away and join the circus at one point or another? Heck, it’s been a tough week, so chucking it all in sounds pretty good right now! That said, today’s modern circus is nothing like what my parents took me to when I was growing up.

I saw this firsthand over the weekend as I had the pleasure of attending Circus Now: International Contemporary Circus Exposure at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The show featured nine acts from around the world performing works of art that were both stunning and awe-inspiring (and occasionally jaw-dropping).

So what does a “contemporary” circus look like? For one, don’t expect to see animals! Instead, look for interactive video experiences such as the opening performance from Ilona Jӓntti from the Finlandish troupe Ilmatila entitled “Elsewhere”:

Ilona Jantti/Ilmatila Elsewhere

She was chasing what looked like Ms. Pacman! Quite cool. Photo: Chiara Contrino

Circus Now: Ilona Jantti/Ilmatila Elsewhere

Ms. Jӓntti would form these shapes, then the shadow would stay put while she moved down the wall. SO interesting. Photo: Chris Nash










The trapeze made an appearance during an excerpt from Smoke and Mirrors, performed by Cohdi Harrell and Laura Stokes from The Ricochet Project:

Circus Now: The Ricochet Project

Yes, he’s hanging from his feet (and in his underwear). It was amazing to watch!

Circus Now

After they were done, I wanted to run out of the theater and go straight to the gym!!! (My friend and I decided to go to the bar instead.)













Only after the piece was over did I realize I was barely breathing and leaning forward in my chair the whole time! The raw physicality and sexual energy between the performers was palpable! There was the odd sensation that if you reached out and touched them – you would be drawn into their dance. It was truly sensational (and all done without safety harnesses! Crazy!).

What circus would be complete without clowns? But alas, remember this is a “contemporary” circus – meet Honeybuns, our emcee for the evening:



The Swedish troupe, Circus Cirkӧr ended the evening with an excerpt from their performance piece UnderArt. Check out a couple of excerpts (from their excerpt):


What an evening!

In his enthusiastic welcome, NYU Skirball Executive Director Michael Harrington’s said “This was our inaugural circus showcase and we thought we would sell 100 tickets if we were lucky. We sold out all three nights!” An impressive feat for an 860-seat venue!

All three of these acts tour in the U.S. so if you see them performing at a venue near you, I highly recommend checking them out! You won’t be disappointed!