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Oriental Circus Indonesia marks new era with no animals

Liza Yosephine
Liza Yosephine

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, December 18, 2018  /  09:07 am
Oriental Circus Indonesia marks new era with no animals

Oriental Circus Indonesia's 'The Great 50 Show', a contemporary performance involving no animals, is slated to run until the end of January. (The Jakarta Post/Donny Fernando)

The lights dimmed and out onto the stage walked a young man, Noah, pulling behind him makeshift wagons depicting a circus train carrying animals. 

Noah circled a pint-sized tent in the middle of the ring, beaming with excitement as his limber body delivered gymnastics moves that grew larger while keeping the beat to the rhythm of the live music's dramatic build-up. 

As the tiny tent rose from the ground, the young man took stuffed toy animals from the wagon, dancing first with a tiger before picking up an elephant. He then donned a top hat and fetched a stick, marking the anniversary of the establishment of the circus, an ode to the theme of the night. 

The circus has officially arrived in Jakarta as Oriental Circus Indonesia opened its half-century anniversary celebration "The Great 50 Show" on Friday evening inside a multicolored tent propped up in the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex.

The stage came to life with an upbeat song "It's a Celebration", with ringmaster Josh Kunze leading the anthem as the circus performers came out one by one, singing and dancing while giving a glimpse of the acrobatic thrills prepared for the evening. 

Multicolored lights added a modern nuance to the 21st century iteration of a classic show that was made popular in Europe and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unlike circus performances of the past, however, tonight's show is a contemporary one, featuring no animals, save for the puppets and stuffed toys.

The show focuses on acrobatic performances accompanied by live music.The show focuses on acrobatic performances accompanied by live music. (The Jakarta Post/Donny Fernando)

Instead, it showed off dozens of highly-skilled acrobats from Indonesia, China and Mongolia, together delivering nail-biting-inducing stunts that kept audience members on the edge of their seats.

Intricate fire choreography, rhythmic aerial silk dances, exhilarating flying trapeze stunts and a futuristic laser light performance enchanted the crowd. 

Meanwhile, teeterboard drills, extreme acrobatics and a wheel-of-death duet visibly pushed the limits of any comfort zone to show just what the human body is capable of. 

Gasps, laughter and enthusiastic applause from the audience at the end of each segment were evidence of a good time had by all.

Twenty-three-year-old university student Ishmah Inezsa was among the guests that evening who enjoyed the unique circus performance.

"I had originally thought there would be animals, real elephants and tigers, like the circus shows you hear about shown abroad, which actually had worried me, specifically in terms of animal exploitation, as well as safety reasons for the audience. So, honestly, this is so much better," Ishmah told The Jakarta Post at the end of the show. 

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Director Peter Wilson, who spoke to journalists at the end of the performance, explained that "The Great 50 Show" tells the story of how Oriental Circus Indonesia was established in the 1960s, saying that the young man in the story illustrates founder Hadi Manansang's experience.

Hadi had first seen a circus in Shanghai, China in the 1930s, which inspired a lifelong fascination that was expressed finally when he arrived in Indonesia. 

Marking the opening in a ceremony held ahead of the show, which is to run until Jan. 27 at the GBK complex, was a video tribute to Hadi, as well as opening remarks by Frans Manansang and Tony Sumampau, who are now overseeing the circus. 

"The show must go on," Frans said. 

Show producer Thibault Paquin, who is also executive director of the company behind the production, Ananta Harsa Group, said the concept for the show was proposed in March with the aim of kick-starting a long-term revival of the circus in the face of a dying industry. After it was approved in July, production and rehearsals began in September.

In a bid to attract a new generation of spectators, the company took on a contemporary interpretation and focused on incorporating modern technologies into the performances, while also highlighting music, including the inclusion of a live band with original songs, which was overseen by music director Nikita Dompas.

"We proposed a new concept that was more about using new technologies, live music, things that we thought were more in line with what the millennials and the urban population want," Paquin said over the phone on Friday.

He added that the show is slated to tour five cities in Indonesia, with Bali expected to be the last stop planned for June next year. (wng)