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Founder, Ringmaster and General Manager
The Play On! season marks the last year that Big Apple Circus Founder Paul Binder will act as a hands-on artistic director. Since founding the European-style circus with performance and business partner, Michael Christensen, in 1977, Binder has donned many different costumes under the big top: He's painted his face and worn floppy shoes as a clown, and performed as juggler, ringmaster, general manager and artistic director. Stepping out of the limelight, allowing his successor, Guillaume Dufresnoy, to take over his role is a sizable change for Binder, who says he'll miss the day-to-day interaction with creative people the most. Binder will continue work with the Big Apple Circus as the advisor to the artistic director and to the board chairman.
"Circus performers are people of great faith. They believe in their own abilities when facing troubled times. Its a part of the nature of circus performers, and is one of the things that drew me to the circus in France. These people were living hard lives but doing extraordinary things in the circus."
What do you look for when you search for new talent?
"I look for two things: virtuoso performers and (artists who can) connect with the audience. I'm looking for ordinary people who are capable of extraordinary things."
What surprised you most about the business of founding a circus?
"The poor reputation that the word 'circus' evoked."
What's your best advice for anyone who wants to join the circus?
"Gregory Fedin, our Russian coach, used to say, 'Work at it 28 hours a day—steal four hours from your death.'"
Meet Paul Binder
Big Apple co-founder "Mr. Paul" is both the leader of the troupe and one of its most recognizable personalities in the ring.