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Luciano and His Pound Puppies


Luciano Anastasini

Luciano and His Pound Puppies

Follow a bumbling ring master and his bounding, barking pups in an act like no other.

Under the big top, talent barks louder than any candy butcher and second chances are handed out with a smile and one question: Is the act any good? In the circus, re-invention and redemption are as integral to the show as the tent rigging. So, when Luciano Anastasini, a trapeze artist who suffered a career-ending injury in the mid-1990s, approached the Big Apple Circus with a new clown act he'd concocted with a pack of abandoned dogs and a choo-choo train, management smiled, and gave him an audition. Fortunately, Anastasini is as talented a dog trainer and clown as he was an acrobat, and his funny act—"Luciano Anastasini and his Pound Puppies"—was added to the Play On! roster. Anastasini focused on reinventing himself professionally after he fell from the Wheel of Destiny—a large wheel on an axis that rotates and spins much like a hamster wheel, and features a performer doing elaborate tricks in the center. As the seasoned performer recovered physically, he considered his options. Anastasini had always grown up with dogs, and he dreamed up a new act featuring a pack of dogs he rescues from shelters around the nation. Ironically, some of the "bad" traits that landed the pooches in the pound in the first place turn out to be the talent that Anastasini recognizes in them as a great circus trick.

Anastasini trains as many as 15 dogs at one time, all of them rescued animals who show some sort of affinity for performance or agility. He performs his act—along with his wife, Gladis, and two sons—with up to seven dogs in the ring at one time.

This season, Anastasini plays a larger-than-life ringmaster who enters the big top on a miniature train filled with dogs. The more Anastasini tries to get the dogs to follow his orders, the more they act out, besting him at every turn. "The gag is that he plays a buffoon and the dogs have to always win," says Guest Director Steve Smith. "For instance, (Anastasini) will hold up a ring and command the dog to jump through, but the dog will do anything but what he asks it to do."

"(My act) is a comedy, and anything goes out there," says Anastasini. "(With all those dogs in the ring), it looks like chaos, but it's controlled chaos."

Luciano's Pound Puppies

Watch the puppies run the show in this frantic, hilarious act.