You get a lot of entertainment for the price of a ticket to the Coney Island Illuscination–a “thrillusionist” and his beautiful assistant, Kung Fu masters diving through flaming swords, hair-hanging aerialists, Salsa dancing acrobats, tightrope-walking kitty cats, an educated toucan and more. The circus, which is in a tent on the Boardwalk, is here for 12 more performances–Wednesday through Labor Day. Our selection of photos by Bruce Handy, Jim McDonnell and me-myself-i provides a glimpse of what you’ve missed seeing this summer if you haven’t been to the circus in Coney.
At the interactive pre-show, which starts 90 minutes before showtime, we met Jamieleigh and a blue-throated macaw, one of the rare and pampered birds in David DaVinci and Jamieleigh’s traveling aviary. On his blog thethrillusionist.com, DaVinci says one of his favorite things to do is take trips to remote locations to freefly their parrots. He also takes in and trains rescued birds that haven’t flown in decades. You might enjoy watching this YouTube video of Jamieleigh and a “hilarious parrot.” More than 23,000 have viewed it so far! In the Coney Island Illuscination, DaVinci, Jamieleigh and a few of their birds perform a variety of Houdiniesque illusions.
Hair hanging?!!! Watching Viktoriya Medeiros and Widny Neves spin by their ponytails is fearsome and sublime. Their act reminds us of the antique Barnum & Bailey poster showing a Chinese troupe nonchalantly sipping tea as they hang by their topknots. Hair hanging is something we’ve seen performed live only once before. Even among extraordinary circus folk, there aren’t a lot of hair hangers. One of our sideshow friends who tried to learn the act tells us a special technique of braiding the hair is what makes it possible, but it’s still excruciatingly painful. Not for the faint of scalp!
If we were a little girl, we’d want to be Mayya Panfilova when we grow up. Then we would never be cat lonely. According to the Illuscination website, ten of the twelve performing housecats were handpicked and trained by Panfilova, while the other two were born in her care. The cats balance on top of balls, jump through hoops and walk across a low wire using their front paws. Dear Ms. Panfilova, we suggest you write a book: “How to Train Your Cat to Be a Circus Star.” We predict it will be a bestseller!
The theatrical buffoonery of the Trio Caveagna from Italy calls to mind the rich tradition of commedia dell’arte. Artidoro Caveagna and sons Steve and Jones combine music and clowning in a uniquely entertaining way.
According to the group’s bio: “Artidoro acquired this one-of-a-kind art form from his father Elicio, who was not only an accomplished musician but also a revered clown in Italy. Elicio performed this act for several years in a prominent Italian circus, Circo Nando Orfei, where his performances were legendary.”
Steve Caveagna, an 18-year-old clown with the zaniest hairdo in New York City, joined the family act when he was 10. With his elastic body and quirky poses, he’s a natural at physical comedy. While Steve’s father and brother play trumpet and saxophone, he cheerfully drowns them out with his boom-box antics and wins over the audience with hip hop dance moves.
Coney Island Illuscination, Surf Ave at W 21 St, Coney Island, 800-745-3000, through Sept 6, 2010.
The Illuscination’s “Gold Tour” runs through March 2011 and includes stops in upstate New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida.
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December 23, 2009: Coney Island School Bus Lot Has Gotta Go! The Circus Is Coming
September 3, 2009: Coney Island Baby: Cyclone, the Mini Donkey at the Ringling Circus
August 20, 2009: Q & A with Coney Island Boom A Ring Circus Star Justin Case