Circus Bella blends classic with contemporary with ‘Love Boat’
AVON — You won’t see animals, but you will see babies dangling from their parents’ arms beneath the big top in Nottingham Park this weekend.
It’s all part of the family experience that is Circus Bella, a contemporary show that focuses on performances with a nod to the classic era of audience-driven circus.
Circus Bella brings seven shows to Avon this weekend, with the final performances scheduled for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
In Friday’s opening show, the announcer described the Gentile family as a five-generation circus family.
That’s not exactly true, said Carlo Gentile.
“I’m actually first-generation; my kids are second-generation,” Carlo said following the show. “They’ve been exposed to it since birth.”
Having his kids – 12-year-old Gianluca, 11-year-old Julia, 8-year-old Joya and 3-year-old Giuseppina – a part of the show is an important theme in the Circus Bella performance.
“A lot of circus is multigenerational, especially the traditional circus, and you see families, but you don’t see younger children in the acts,” Carlo said.
In the Circus Bella show, the kids are performing alongside their parents.
“The audience can see a reflection,” Carlo said. “People say ‘I can imagine what your living room is like.’”
Before the Gentile kids were a part of the act, they were watching from their strollers, Carlo said.
“They could see my wife and me in the ring,” Carlo said. “We’d always put (Gianluca) in a costume in case he wandered in.”
Along with Carlo’s wife, Orlene, the family practices the discipline of human foot juggling, with the Gentile parents flipping their kids in the air with only the use of their feet. With the Gentile family as its anchor, the Circus Bella show fuses contemporary circus performance art – like the Gentiles’ foot-juggling act – with more classic material, such as mischievous clowns interrupting the show and confounding the announcer.
In a new era of circus – the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has ceased operations after nearly 150 years in business – expectations are changing as to what the circus will provide. Smaller circuses are now writing a new manual in America, and shows like Circus Bella are finding their place within that environment.
Circus Bella co-founder Abigail Munn was part of the new circus movement, playing with the San Francisco-based Pickle Family Circus when she was still a child. Now the executive director of Circus Bella, Munn has directed most of its productions over the last decade, adding a homage to the classic circus within the contemporary Circus Bella show.
Carlo said working with Munn, he is happy to have found a space that’s free-form enough to work in his family when they desire and travel to exciting places like Colorado along the way. Following the Avon performance, the show will head to Snowmass.
“Newer, contemporary circus has no animals, all acrobats,” Carlo said. “It’s more theatrical, and (performers) look out from the stage or performance space and don’t see anything but darkness. In this closed space, (the audience) is just an observer of what we’re doing.
“Our show is like that — you won’t see any animals, ever, in Circus Bella,” Carlo added. “But our presentation is much more on the traditional circus side. We actually acknowledge the audience, we style to the audience, we’re making a lot of contact with the audience.”
The other major difference with Circus Bella is the live band. Led by Rob Reich, the six-piece band looks a bit like a “Love Boat” orchestra – complete with Captain Stubing costumes – and adds a musical element to the show, which keeps things moving.
“We’re not going anywhere, or doing any dates, without the band,” Carlo said. “It adds so much to the show.”
For more information on Circus Bella, visit https://www.circuscolorado.com/.