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As the energy of a circus season wanes, the performers, crew and management, most of whom have spent the better part of a year living in each other's laps and breathing common air, pack their bags.
"See you down the road," a clown yells to an aerialist as trailer and truck motors fire up across the back lot. "Until we meet again," a juggler whispers to an acrobat after the music has stopped and the tents are packed. What circus performers, crew and management don't say to one another is "good-bye," a sentiment that, under the big top, has all the charm of a mud puddle. It's a term loaded with bad luck.
In the world of circus, a huge cast change between seasons is as normal as a red nose on a clown. Indeed, it is this continual exchange of talent that helps resurrect a show that can become stale and predictable otherwise. And the circus world is such a small one that the chances of a clown from France meeting again the Russian acrobat he shared a ring with years ago in Brazil are very good.
"First and foremost, circus people are circus. They're not French, not Russian, not Italian, but circus. We are a family," says Circus Historian Dominique Jando.
So, you see, "good-bye" is hardly appropriate. See you down the road.
Following are updates on some of your favorite characters from PBS CIRCUS. Because of the transitory nature of the circus community, we aren't able to track the whereabouts of everyone, but we'll update the list if we find out more!
Following the 2008-2009 Play On! season, the Anastasini family joined up with the family business, The Amazing Anastasini Circus, and took their pound puppy act on the road. Their tour began in Missouri and took Luciano, Gladis, Adriano and Brando through New York State, Pennsylvania, Texas, Mississippi and Florida. They are taking some time off the road for the holidays, but the family will be back on the road in January in Florida and Georgia.
Here's what Luciano Anastasini says about his season with the Big Apple Circus:
"The (Play On!) show was kind of vacation from what we normally do. (That year), I was performing strictly in the ring, taking care of my dogs and my wife and children. It was a great experience. My circus life now is driving trucks, publicity, doing the electrical, getting different sponsors and permits, as well as performing with the dogs. The Big Apple Circus treats all the performers like wonderful stars, and I loved it. The show was beautiful. It's a beautiful organization, and I wouldn't think twice about going back."
Following the 2008-2009 season in which Binder stepped away from his ringmaster role, he's been very busy helping to fundraise for the Big Apple Circus.
As co-founder of the Big Apple Circus, Christensen continues his work as the Big Apple Circus Creative Director.
Efrain "Smiley" Diaz
Diaz continues to work as a crewmember for the Big Apple Circus.
Draginin continues to work as a crewmember for the Big Apple Circus.
Following the 2008-2009 Big Apple Circus in which he was handed the title of Artistic Director, Dufresnoy successfully finished his first solo season, Dance On! to good critical reviews.
Following the 2008-2009 Big Apple Circus season, aerialist Harmony French took some time off from work to have a child. Currently, she lives with her family in California and performs in an acrobatic show at Sea World.
Clown Mark Gindick returns to the Big Apple Circus as The Man Who Can't Stop Dancing in the 2010-2011 production, Dance On! In the years since CIRCUS was filmed, Gindick has written and performed "Reunited and it Feels So Good," a brand new show with his New York City-based comedy trio, Happy Hour. Gindick has future plans to appear in scenes from "I Hate Clowns," a half-hour comedy pilot about burned out and desperate clowns who attempt to run their own events agency.
Following eight years as supervisor and clown doctor with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, 16 sessions as Big Apple Circus' appointed Clown in Residence at The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, and a year touring in Play On!, Heroy stepped away from The Big Apple Circus to concentrate on other adventures. Heroy performs regularly in and around New York City, sometimes with his band The Maestrosities.
Here's what Heroy says about what participating in PBS CIRCUS has meant to him:
"I'm most grateful for the ripples in the water. People I've never met from countries I've never been to have written, sending really lovely sentiments. Old friends have reconnected. Other people have reached out saying my story resonates with them, and they take the time to share their lives with me. Really special."
Raul "La Luz" Lancheros
Lancheros continues to work as the Electrical Supervisor for the Big Apple Circus.
LaSalle is currently attending medical school at the University of San Francisco in California.
Here's what Jake LaSalle says about his decision to leave the circus life:
"I also have no regrets about leaving the circus to become a surgeon, though it was not an easy decision to go to medical school and leave the circus behind. I imagine I would have found happiness in either path, but I'm very satisfied with the new challenge that the practice of medicine has presented to me."
Marty LaSalle currently works for the Big Apple Circus as the Public Services Manager where he's very involved with the business development side of the organization.
Here's what Marty LaSalle says about his transition from performer to management, and what the change has meant for his relationship with his brother:
"It's been a much smoother transition than I thought it would be. I miss performing, but not as much as I thought I would. I'd known for quite a few years that I wanted to (work) on the business side (of the circus), so I was mentally preparing myself for that transition. ... (Jake) and I are not on each other's toes anymore, and we're not working together, and it's been great for our relationship."
Leclair continues to work as Tent Master for the Big Apple Circus.
Lubin is currently clowning with the Big Apple Circus in its 2010-2011 show, Dance On! Since the airing of PBS CIRCUS, Lubin reports that he's fallen in love with a lovely woman from Sweden and has plans to relocate there in January, though he is obliged to complete one more season with the Big Apple Circus. He's also stacked up some pretty impressive stamps in his passport, traveling on a teaching ship across the Atlantic and Mediterranean to places like New Zealand, Austria, Germany, Spain, France and Italy. Lubin says his health is very good and his cancer is likely gone. Lubin's life has been a "wonderful whirlwind" because of the publicity he's received following PBS CIRCUS, including mentions in the New York Times and on various broadcasts including, ABC's "Nightline" and CBS's "Up to the Minute."
Here's what Lubin says about the next phase of his life:
"Because of my appearance on CIRCUS, I've experienced an outpouring of love from friends and fans, especially wanting to know about my health, and to express an appreciation for clowning and the circus which they perhaps wouldn't have had were it not for the documentary series. I was just recognized by a woman on the streets as I was walking with (Big Apple Circus clown) Mark Gindick. She told us she saw us on the show and called us celebrities. In my entire 36-year career, I have almost never been recognized out of makeup and costume. My next phase after leaving the Big Apple Circus? We shall see!"
Austin K. Sanderson
Following his work with the Big Apple Circus, costume designer Sanderson has applied his skills to several theatrical shows in New York City. He's currently working in collaboration with DreamWorks to design a parade for Royal Caribbean's new ship, The Allure of the Seas.
During summer 2010 wirewalker Sarah Schwarz and mime Olivier Taquin toured with Gifford's Circus in England. Today, Schwarz is living in Paris with her boyfriend, Sergio Nguyen, who took a job as the Technical Director in the Academie Fratellini, a renowned circus school. During the holiday season, Schwarz is scheduled to perform with the Bouglion Family.
Here's what Schwarz says about her future:
"We enjoy being in Paris and being closer to ... our families. We'll stay in Paris for a while. I bought a little pig and am work on a new act with it. That's lots of fun!
The tour Play On! was a very nice season, and it was great to get to know the crew from [circus producers] Show of Force. ... Also, it was my last year with the Big Apple Circus. It was emotional to leave, and I miss many people. I had a great time during the three years I spent in America."
Following the 2008-2009 Big Apple Circus debut in Lincoln Center, Guest Director Steve Smith flew to Finland to complete work for Royal Caribbean where he was a creative consultant for nine years. Smith returned to New York and the Big Apple Circus to direct the Bello is Back! 2009-2010 season. Today, Smith teaches at conferences and accepts public speaking engagements, and in February he'll begin teaching at the Nouveau Clown Institute in Barcelona, Spain.
Today, Stoinev is a sophomore at Illinois State University in Bloomington, Illinois. He's busy carrying a full academic load and participating in the university's Gamma Phi Circus, the oldest collegiate circus in the nation. Following graduation, Stoinev plans to return to the circus as a performer.
Following the 2008-2009 Big Apple Circus season, mime Taquin spent the 2010 summer on tour with the Gifford's Circus in England.
Alida Wallenda Cortes
Wallenda Cortes and the other members of the Flying Cortes troupe are currently performing with The Royal Hanneford Circus for Shrine Circus venues on the East Coast.