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Article 04 - March 29, 2010
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The Circus Is Back In Town

By Jessica Lynn Harris

Lately, I’ve been noticing a resurgence of circus, Vaudeville, and Victorian magic show aesthetics in popular culture and media. Sequins, tutus, leotards, pinstripes, tights, and mini top hats have made a revival among our celebrities. Less extreme versions of these fashions have found their way into the closets of alternative teenagers.

The circus has become increasingly popular in the past ten years in large part due to the contemporary circus movement via Cirque du Soleil. Cirque du Soleil was founded in Quebec in 1984. It now has shows in all over the world, including three in Las Vegas and three in New York.

Bravo television brought Cirque du Soleil to a wider audience in early 2000. Those who live in places without a stationary circus and not often visited could experience it through their shows Solstrom (2003), which recreates acts from various shows for the screen and Fire Within (2004), which documents the creation and performers of the show Varekai.

Contemporary circus differs from traditional circus in that it makes little to no use of animals for its acts, rarely has a ringleader and instead focuses on story, much like at a ballet. The music is more varied, often live, featuring everything from opera to industrial; most of the acts revolve around a variety of acrobatics from aerial silks, tightrope, trampoline, jugglers, etc.

Now that the circus has again become mainstream, an upsurge of circus and magic-related entertainment has appeared throughout Hollywood. Films like The Illusionist, staring Ed Norton and Jessica Biel, and The Prestige, with Christian Bale and Scarlet Johansson, both of which were in theatres in 2007, take place within the world of the Victorian/Edwardian magic show.

Circus and variety show styling bled into pop music as well, first with Panic! At the Disco’s music video “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” (2006) which features the Lucent Dossier Experience, an alternative circus based in California. Then came Britney Spear’s hit album Circus (2008). The music of Circus borrows from the circus waltzes of the 19th century (like those of The Ringling Brothers) combined with contemporary club music to create a catchy album. The album artwork features photographs of Spears decked-out in fashions inspired by trapeze artists. This styling was then continued and topped by pop artist Pink, as she actually performed an aerial act while singing for the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009. Impressive. 

Juicy Couture’s autumn 2009 campaign featured a contortionist and a ringleader/magician type character. The catch line was “Do the Donts” and advertised frilly feathered jackets and brightly colored tights. Lucent Dossier Experience has been photographed for Vogue magazine twice. They were also the subject of a shoot with Vanity Fair for this past January’s Italian issue. Hot Topic, a store that has found its way into virtually every mall in America, is now carrying a line of top hats with netting and peacock feathers. They also sell tutus.

What is it about the circus that has once again captured the American eye? Why is it that suddenly people care about extravagance, dangerous feats, and the fashion that goes with them?

Perhaps we are enamored with impossibilities made possible. The circus shows the full extent of the human potential: upon watching aerial acts we see that we can fly, the tightrope reveals that we can find balance even when our trials are extreme; when a jester trips and fools we see our own follies in a humorous light. Fashions borrowed bring to mind these things. We see that there is magic, adventure, and delight even when we occupy a stationary world. When we wear brightly colored tights or a feathered head piece we are taking little risks in a blue and white collared world. We become in our imaginations the wayfaring stranger.

How to Make a Tutu


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Editor in Chief: Jessica Lynn Harris
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copyright 2010 Love To Sew
Article 04 March 29, 2010




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