Welcome to the circus…and be a child again

The broad spectrum of events in Paris never ceases to amaze. There are so many goings on at any moment that often times it’s hard to decide what to do. I try my best to keep a mental calendar of all the long-term events, sort of an ongoing deadline. This weekend marked the end of the Cirque d’Hiver. As a supreme procrastinator naturally I waited until the last weekend to attend.

I have been to a lot of circuses in my day. Always a few trapeze artists, some vaulting from horse back, trained dogs, etc. The French circus had all the elements of a normal circus but somehow everything was just a little more French: a little sexier, and a little more coiffed. In between every act a gaggle of beautiful female dancers and their male ringleader would wriggle and writhe for the audience’s viewing pleasure. Each time they came out they wore all new costumes and performed a new exotic dance. They were so different every time that if it weren’t for the distinctive white hair of the male dancer, I would assume a small ex soviet village had been raided and its strikingly beautiful residents forced into the performing arts so as to never exhaust their supply of fresh dancers. In reality the group consisted of but six super talented individuals trained in every dance style imaginable. And those legs! What stems!

As far as animals go, I was surprised there weren’t any elephants. There were however plenty of lamas, white horses, dogs, and goats to go around. I never thought goats would make for good circus performers but lo and behold they certainly are agile little suckers. And of course, there were lions. The opening act showcased three male and two female lions, prowling around, growling, jumping over each other and landing silently on their enormous padded paws. Their trainer was a real thespian; he really made me believe that those lions wanted to eat him! At any moment I thought Paris would become the site of the next animal vs. trainer showdown, as has been popular recently in circuses, zoos, and theme parks around the world (SeaWorld killer whale anyone?). The trainer would poke at one of his cats with a long stick and provoke it until the beast sprang out with flexed claws eagerly seeking human flesh. I wouldn’t blame a lion for attacking such a pesky trainer. A tasty French guy, meat undoubtedly marinated in red wine and mustard, pokes not just one but five hungry beasts. He’s just asking for it.

I’m glad the circus went on for two glorious hours without incident though. It would have been a shame for the lions to eat their trainer that early in the show. All those poor kids in the audience with their stuffed animal lions would have been scarred for life! Then the place would have been evacuated before I got a chance to enjoy my “barbe à papa”, that’s French for papa beard a.k.a. cotton candy.

Practical Info:

Although the Cirque d’Hiver is no longer in Paris, it is an annual event that takes place over several months every winter. For more information please visit: www.cirquedhiver.com

N.B. The best way to get a feel for what is going on in Paris at any moment is to pick up a Pariscope at any newsstand. This publication serves as a week-by-week calendar of events all around the city. At 40 cents a pop, it’s probably the best investment you’ll make during your stay.


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