For several months each year, The Big Apple Circus pulls its muddy trailers and tents into the superlative air of Lincoln Center. Here, in the company of lean ballet dancers with elegant posture and sopranos with voices akin to angels, the Big Apple Circus stakes its claim as a classic art form. It’s incongruous: A messy circus with bales of hay and cotton candy wrappers plunked in this epicenter of high art. But the circus ring has always been a showcase for performance artistry, a place where athleticism, humor and human physical potential are on full display. In this collection from PBS’s upcoming series, CIRCUS, we shine a spotlight on the artistry and athletic prowess under the big top.
More often than not, great circus acts are honed and perfected through collaboration. When mime Olivier Taquin and Big Apple Circus Tent Master Sergio Nguyen join together to design a new act featuring a life-size female puppet named Olympia, the results are remarkable, but the process is painstaking. Olivier practices his dance moves and designs the act while Sergio slaves over Olympia, whittling her body out of pieces of bamboo. Again and again, the two friends test out Olympia’s dexterity, making small adjustments to her structure until her hands and legs move easily. The moment Olympia and Olivier meet and dance together for the first time is delightful. It’s love at first sight.