62 Days of Summer
In the trailer for the 2011 film “Water for Elephants,” an off-screen voice — old, rough and crackly — begins to speak: “1931. It was the Benzini brothers.”
Instantly, sounds, colors and smells rush into our minds, a complete mental picture of the circus. We’ve seen pictures of the fire-swallowers. We’ve watched black-and-white footage of the lumbering elephants.
You can experience the big top for yourself when Circus Smirkus comes to the Saratoga Casino & Raceway with 1 and 7 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday.
But this is not your typical circus. Only raw, young, talented performers between the ages of 10 and 18 make it past the auditions to join the troupe.
The theme of this summer’s show is “Anchors Away for Atlantis,” and the circus grounds will feature murals of underwater scenes. Blue light will flood the ring during the duo trapeze act. Aerialists and acrobats will climb up and down fabric sails that mimic the seething waves of a storm at sea.
The circus has been on the road since June 29, most recently at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Vermont. A seven-week tour has the young aerialists, acrobats and jugglers performing nearly 70 shows in 15 cities.
As you might imagine, there’s a “type” of adolescent who joins the circus scene. Visit the Circus Smirkus YouTube channel for a closer look at these off-beat personalities — 30-second video shorts introduce several of the troupers, such as 16-year old Wesley “Woowoo” Williams, a redheaded unicyclist from Weston, Florida.
Tickets are $22.50 for adults and $20 for seniors and children under age 18. You can buy them at the racino up to an hour before showtime or in advance at Crafter’s Gallery at 427 Broadway in Saratoga Springs. They’re also available online at http://smirkus.org with a $2.50 surcharge.
Inside the circus tent, the rainbow-colored bleachers can seat 750 people. The show lasts two hours.
And if watching the circus isn’t enough for you, consider signing up for The Cirque Experience, a summer program at Proctors in Schenectady.
“Imagine getting the chance to master juggling, silks, trapeze, tightrope, the unicycle and more, all wrapped up in the magical, magnificent ambience of Cirque!” reads the Proctors website.
On consecutive Mondays, July 28 and Aug. 4, adults can attend a class from 2 to 5 p.m. for $50.
There are also several weeklong camps for teens, at $275 per person. One class, for kids ages 12-14, runs from July 28 to Aug. 1, with another Aug. 4-8 for those ages 15-18. For more information, visit www.proctors.org.
And if you can’t make it to Circus Smirkus or The Cirque Experience, you can settle for taking some advice from the late English actor David Niven: “Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don’t take anything too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.”
Have a favorite summer activity? Let us know about it. Share your ideas for Summer Days at www.dailygazette.com/summerdays or firstname.lastname@example.org.