The Greatest Show On Earth


Emma Janney

Sirens of the Sea dangle over the arena floor as they conduct acrobatic moves with poise and grace at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus XTREME.

On April 2nd, 2017 the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presented their last performance of “The Greatest Show on Earth” – Circus XTREME to the people of Hampton, Virginia.

I have been going to the circus with my family ever since I was a little girl. I was heartbroken to hear that the circus that has been performing ever since 1871 would be “bringing down the big top” in May of 2017. As soon as I found out that tickets were still available a week before the show I asked my grandma if she could get us tickets.

On the day of the show my grandma and I headed to the Hampton Colosseum to see the amazing talent that awaited us. We were some of the first ten people in line so we got to go inside first. We went inside the doors to the arena and the floor doors were opened, there we saw a lot of performers ready to interact with fans. I met a really cool clown with blue hair named DJ.  I walked up to take a picture with him, he greeted me with a high-five that quickly turned into a fist bump meeting my palm. Then I made a fist to match his but he made another high-five, then we went back again. This exchange made me nervous and I ended up putting both hands up, shaking them and making a strange noise. DJ mirrored my gesture, which made me laugh and feel better, after that awkward greeting we finally just “high-fived.” Then we took a fun picture where we both threw up a peace sign. He asked my grandma if she wanted to be in the photo so he held the phone and took a selfie with us. DJ positioned his finger so it looked like he was pointing at me for one photo, but then he changed it so it looked more like he was picking my nose. As he handed me back my phone the clown acted like he was going to drop it, but he did so in an over the top comical way, so I knew he was kidding. Meeting DJ was a very amusing experience.

After that I wanted a sno-cone so we left the arena to go to the merchandise stand. I chose the elephant, over the leopard, because it had the logo of the circus and when I go to events I try to pick something out that will remind me of what show it was from, it gives the item more sentimental value. Then we went to find our seats.

The circus started with the first ever female ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson. She had many talents that past ringmasters did not. Wilson could sing so well, she even sang in the show! Wilson had a very lively and spirited vibe, which made her interesting to watch. The theme of Circus XTREME was two explorers, Alex and Irina, traveling the world to find the best, most thrilling, and exhilarating acts to take the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to the next level. Each act was found in a different country of the world.

When the show started Alex and Irina were transported into the hot desert heat of the Sahara, where they saw Robert Stipka & The Desert Goddesses. The goddesses were riding two humped camels, which were directed by Robert Stipka. This portion of the circus was not very exhilerating because the camels gave off a monotone vibe and the girls riding them were just doing gymnastic type moves. The moves the girls were doing were nice and clean and synchronized, but since the camels did not seem into it, so the entire act seemed kind of dull.

Then the comedic duo traveled to the snowy peak of Mount Everest and it was a race to the top to see who would be confirmed the new ringmaster. Both Alex and Irina had a crew of clowns that tried to help them succeed. The winner of the mountain race was Irina. Then the Danguir Troupe perfromed an astounding performance. The Spanish trapeze artists formed a four person human pyramid that made me very nervous because they were balanced on a tightrope.

While on the “peak of Mount Everest” a group called “The Circus Skydivers” performed above the heads of the audience in bright neon costumes that glowed in the dark of the arena. This troupe of acrobats was great to watch because they made a their moves with such precision and grace. It looked as if they were really flying in the air, instead of being attached to bungee cords.

After that the two competitors journeyed to the outer reaches of Asia to find The Mongolian Marvels. During this portion of the circus there was a lot going on and it was hard to determine where to watch.  I wish they would have had less acts during their journey to Mongolia because then I would have been able to take in everything that was going on without feeling like I missed something. There was a snake tamer that I thought was really cool, but I was so focused on her that I did not notice the man swallowing the sword until he was about to leave the arena so the main Mongolian act could perform.

The main focus in the Mongolian piece of the circus was a group of multiple contortionists and one strongman, called The Mongolian Marvels. The strongman could lift up to 550 pounds with his teeth! It was insane how much the contortionists could bend their bodies and change their shape, it was almost as if they had no bones at all. The most astounding feat the ensemble performed was an eight person human pyramid, weighing an unbelievable 880 pounds. Then the show offered an intermission.

Once intermission was over Alex and Irina traveled to the depths of the ocean to find their newest amazing team, The Sirens of the Sea. This was one of my favorites because the women were dressed as mermaids and made their acrobatic moves look like ballet dancing. There were four mermaids in this section and the arena was divided into four sides, so each side had a mermaid to see. The mermaid in front of me was very graceful and looked like she was happy to be showing her talents at The Greatest Show Earth. The one to the right of her did not look as enthused. The mermaid to the right looked like she could care less about being in the final show of the circus because she was not smiling or being friendly. It took my attention away from the girl that was right in front of me.

My number one favorite act from the circus was the Human Cannonball, Nitro Nicole. Nicole Sanders is a skilled performer, dancer and aerialist. During her flight, the ringmaster was telling the crowd what Sanders does to prepare for her performance. I was trying to watch Nitro Nicole preparing but my attention kept focusing more on the ringmaster than on the performer, which caused me to almost miss the cannon being fired. The ringmaster also started a countdown that the entire crowd was included in. When the cannon went off it was so cool because there were really cool pyrotechnics that shot up when it was “fired”.

The next performer was one that had the entire audience on their toes. Benny Ibarra is a daredevil that leaps, flips, and jump ropes on top of a steel pendulum that is 50 feet above the floor! He almost fell three times, and after the second time I began to think that it was a staged fall. I thought that if Ibarra was faking his falls, then clowns should have been on stage with him during the performance to be sure that the audience knew he was safe. The acrobat falling took away from the fact that he was practically defying gravity. Benny Ibarra is not someone that I, personally, would want to see again because it made me nervous, and if I go to a circus or any event where I am supposed to be amazed, I should not be nervous that the performers are going to get hurt.

Alex and Irina then traveled to the depths of the jungle to find Tabayara Maluenda and his beautiful tigers. During this performance it was cool because you would think that the cats would not want to listen to their trainer, but these tigers listened and did what Maluenda asked. I was astonished by the tigers because each one was so different. Each tiger had different stripes and they were so gorgeous. After the tigers were finished performing, the ringmaster “caught their roar” in a jar and said “whoever controlled the roar, controlled the circus.” Then, Alex and Irina fought to keep the roar. When Alex got the jar he opened the lid and let some of the roar out. Then he dropped the jar and all of the clowns had their own jars, the two performers were checking all of the jars to find the right one. By the time they found it, the jar was empty.

Alex and Irina went to the “concrete jungle” to try and find another roar. During this part of the circus there were gymnasts and BMX Bikers. The first troupe was a gymnastic group from the Ukraine that combines martial arts and gymnastics. The first man to do a flip onto the map hurt his leg really bad and then he left and went back stage for the remainder of the show. The second group were performers doing gymnastics on trampolines and it was really cool because they had to stay focused on the structure they were supposed to land on. This act made me a little nervous because I had just seen a man get seriously injured. The third act in the performance was a group of BMX bicyclists that did a lot of awesome tricks and flips on ramps. These guys were really cool because each person did a different move when they were in the air. No guy did the same move which made the performance really interesting to watch and probably interesting to perform. After Alex and Irina go there roar the circus was over.

Overall I would say that the circus is a great experience. The circus has changed a lot over the years and I am proud to say that I have seen and been astounded by them all. My favorite circus was The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey: Circus XTREME because it had a lot of different performances that I had never seen at a circus before. It saddens me that the circus is ending because of how different the childhood of the next generation will be. It is a bittersweet time for me because now that the circus is over, the annual tradition of seeing a group of new acts will be over.