Golden Circus: The Greatest Show on Earth—Chilean style

Around the time that winter changes to spring in Santiago, you might notice that circus tents sprout up throughout the city faster than you can say Barnum & Bailey. So before these nomadic showmen pack up and head south for the summer, it’s worth it to make your way to a big top and get a glimpse of this fading, but beloved Chilean pastime.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Nick Copeli

A cheesy, but fun, option is Golden Circus, temporarily located in the parking lot of Mall Florida Center. Golden Circus itself has only been around for five years, but its owners have been in the business for five generations. An “ecological” circus, they pride themselves on the fact that they do not use wild animals in their shows, although domesticated animals flap and prance around with abandon. They also feature artists—trapeze performers, acrobats, jugglers, magicians and clowns—from all over the world—Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico and Japan—which gives their lineup pizazz.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Nick Copeli

Now, the show’s opening act, a surprisingly uncoordinated hip-hop group, might make you want to throw your manjar-filled churro at the stage and head for the exits, but resist this urge and you’ll get an eyeful in the subsequent acrobatic performances.

In the first aerial acrobatic performance, an Ecuadorian wraps, lifts, twists and twirls himself around in the air suspended by a long piece of fabric, his movements like that of a butterfly. In another act an Argentine couple dressed in their best Parisian-style leotards is hoisted into the air by a 19th Century lamppost as prototypical French violin music plays in the background. Their moment of glory comes when the woman is spun around as she hangs from the lamppost…by her neck!

The trapeze acts are the most exciting, despite the fact that their stunts are predictable and executed without the cheesy bravado you might secretly hope for from a circus. If you’re a circus guru you might not find the aerial numbers particularly impressive, but if, like me, the last time you went to a circus was before you could even spell trapeze, you’ll probably enjoy the show.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Nick Copeli

As with any good circus, this one comes with clowns. Be prepared to laugh when one clown leads an audience-participation dance contest amongst middle-aged men. I mean, who doesn’t delight in watching middle-aged men trying to pull of sexy dance moves? The resident dogs are also a hoot, hamming it up onstage through antics like pushing baby strollers with their paws and dancing in a Conga line.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Nick Copeli

A couple of other acts were either annoyingly dull or juvenile. The magic show is lackluster: an aging magician lags about onstage, obviously unmoved by his own craft, and his sequined assistants walk as if they had foot blisters. There is also a torturous performance by Barney and some other popular children’s TV characters that could only possibly appeal to someone under the age of five.

Golden Circus may not be the most innovative and heart-stopping show you’ve ever seen, but, for not a lot of money (CP$4,000 adults and CP$2,000 kids; or US$7.50 adults and $3.75 kids) you can relive your youth a bit by watching talented performers from around the world showcase their art in a delightfully proletarian setting.

Golden Circus
Schedule: July 10 through September 30, 2009
Showtimes: Monday through Thursday 8 pm; Friday 6:30 and 8:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday 3, 5, 7, and 9 pm
Tickets: CP$4,000 adults and $2,000 kids; or US$7.50 adults and $3.75 kids
Location: Mall Florida Center parking lot
Address: Av. Vicuña Mackenna 6100; Vicuña Mackenna Oriente and Eugenia
Metro: Mirador

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