Monday, December 18 2017

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Circus troupes walk tightrope to survive

Update: July, 16/2017 - 09:00
Thrill seekers: Young performers of the HCM City Circus Theatre invent new routines and practice for up to 12 hours a day. They often face accidents at work. —Photo courtesy of the HCM City Circus Theatre
Viet Nam News

Faced with an abundance of entertainment options, kids these days are more likely to choose the cinema over the circus. Once high-flying performers are now struggling to make ends meet as audience numbers dwindle and ticket sales dry up. Is it time to change careers? Thu Anh reports.

A family trip to the magic world of the circus could soon be a thing of the past as children increasingly favour surfing and posting on Facebook and Instagram, playing video games and going to the cinema.

While many circus performers entertained thousands of youngsters in the 1980s, they are attracting fewer and fewer crowds today. 

In HCM City, only two troupes, Mặt Trời Đỏ (Red Sun) and Bầu Trời Xanh (Blue Sky), of the HCM City Circus offer shows, but the troupes are struggling to survive.

The troupes operate under the HCM City Circus, which has had no theatre for their performances for several years.

Instead, they are using Kỳ Hòa Cultural Park, HCM City Zoo & Botanical Gardens and Đầm Sen Tourist Park.

In 2012, they moved to a place in Gò Vấp District’s Gia Định Park.   

“It was sad to see that some theatres were rebuilt for other purposes, while our troupes have no place of our own to perform,” said Nguyễn Đức Thế, director of HCM City Circus.

“Our performers are working in poor conditions and with props two decades old,” he said.

The Circus of the city receives VNĐ2 billion (US$88,000) per year from the State budget but “the money is not enough”, he said.

The troupes stage performances every weekend but often incur losses.

“We have to pay too much for the rights to stage plays, while turnover from tickets cannot cover operational costs,” he said.

Thế said that plans to build a circus theatre on Lữ Gia Street in District 11 in 2005 were still on paper.

Circus artists and brothers, Giang Quốc Cơ and Giang Quốc Nghiệp, won several prizes at local and international circus festivals. —Photo Giang Quốc Cơ’s facebook

Youth today would rather go to shopping malls, entertainment centres, karaoke clubs, music concerts and cinemas than watch circus performances.  

Circus animal trainer Ánh Tuyết of Mặt Trời Đỏ said her colleagues work hard to prepare for their performances. They invent new routines and practice for up to 12 hours a day.

“We face accidents at work, too” she added.  

Quốc Đại, who began his career at 17 and won several prizes at local and international circus festivals, said: “For only a 20-minute performance slot on stage we have to spend more than two years working on the circus item.”

After 20 years of walking a tightrope, Đại is now preparing to return to the ground because "the acrobats end their jobs after they are 35," he said.

"The job is very demanding. The acts must be changed quickly with high accuracy and skills can decline with age," he explained.

Many circus artists are reluctant to quit the stage for fear of not making enough money in another walk of life.  

"I love my job but sometimes I ask myself why I didn’t become a movie director or a theatre actress, instead," said Tuyết, who earns only VNĐ3 million (US$132) a month from her work.

The circuses today are in a sorry state with inadequate equipment and under-trained performers.

Many performers only work in variety shows or get involved in movies and theatre, working as an assistant director in casting and clothing.  

"The circus helps children develop their imagination. I don’t think young people, especially rural kids, would reject the circus," said Trần Nguyệt Nga of HCM City, a mother of two daughters in HCM City.

"The problem is that the world develops very fast around our children while circus performances are the same as they were 10 years ago."

Thùy Trang, a public relations official with HCM City Circus, said that many circuses had shut down in the face of the growing number of theatres, cinemas and entertainment complexes being opened in large cities. 

She said the Việt Nam Circus Federation has asked the Government for more funding to improve the quality of training at circus schools.— VNS

Clowning about: Many circus performers also work in movies and the theatre as assistant directors in casting and wardrobe, to earn more money. —Photo courtesy of the HCM City Circus Theatre

 

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