The Big Apple Circus is Big Time Fun ~ At National Harbor

Jordan Wright
March 12, 2018 

National Harbor is thrilled to host the Big Apple Circus to celebrate their 10th anniversary.  “We are delighted to bring such a highly acclaimed circus to National Harbor.  In honor of our 10th year, we’re welcoming several new premium events, including Big Apple Circus,” said Rachel Ball, Director of Events at National Harbor. “The performers with Big Apple Circus are extremely talented and it’s no surprise that they just received rave reviews throughout the east coast and currently for their show in Atlanta.”

Host and WJLA Weatherman Brian van de Graaff opened the show to an excited audience of children and adults who roared at the hilarious clowns (a slip-and-slide routine, high flying routine and plenty of fart jokes the kids ate up!), a beautiful contortionist, tons of tumblers, jugglers and acrobats along with eight clever dogs, precious mini-ponies and pretty horses all accompanied by an 8-piece live band.

Ringmaster Tyrone McFarlan welcomes the audience to the Big Apple Circus at National Harbor ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Led by Ringmaster Tyrone “Ty” McFarlan and famed for its one-ring, intimate and artistic style, this circus claims no seat is more than 50 feet from the performers.  And as we watched several audience members were called up to play jokes along with the clowns.  This intimate setting separates the Big Apple Circus from the style the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey made famous.  More importantly, there are no exotic animals – a practice that, rightly so, has finally been condemned.

Nik Wallenda and The Flying Wallendas perform their seven-person pyramid on the high wire ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Recently purchased by renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Neil Kahanovitz, who along with his wife performed as trapeze and acrobatic artists after college, the circus now celebrates its 40th  anniversary with a full lineup of global artist and acts, the biggest and best-known headliners being 10-time Guinness world record-holding high wire artist Nik Wallenda and The Fabulous Wallendas performing their famous seven-person pyramid on the high wire.  Nik is the seventh generation of Great Wallendas who trace their roots back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1780.  For Nik, whose motto is #NeverGiveUp, every walk is an expression of honor to his great-grandfather, the legendary Karl Wallenda who brought the family to America for The Greatest Show on Earth.  You’ll also thrill to see the daring quadruple somersault on the trapeze by The Flying Tunizianis for the first time in circus history that both legendary feats are performed under the same big top.

Jan Damm on the Rola Bola reaches new heights ~ Photo credit Jordan, Wright

These record-setting acts are joined by Dandino & Luciana, a dynamic duo who combine speed, acrobatics and daredevil grace on roller skates; award-winning contortionist Elayne Kramer; master juggler Gamal Garcia; Jan Damm on the Rola Bola; acclaimed Risley acrobats The Anastasini Brothers (who broke the World Record for most flips on Nov. 9, 2017); and the lovely Jenny Vidbel, who performs in the ring with 16 horses and ponies as well as six rescue dogs.

Jenny Vidbel with her mini ponies Photo credit Jordan Wright

Outside of the ring, Big Apple Circus continues to honor the essential and iconic characteristics that have set them apart for the past four decades with multiple community outreach programs and a vital no-wild-animals policy.  Their “Circus of the Senses” performances offer special enhanced experiences for audiences with autism, visual and auditory challenges and other special performances include ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices with live audio commentary, pre- and post-show touch therapy experiences, and a Braille program book. Sensory-friendly performances for Autistic audience members feature lowered light and sound levels, a descriptive picture book showing the different areas and acts involved with the circus, and a “calming center” that can be accessed at any point during the show.

The Big Apple Circus 40th anniversary season is directed by Mark Lonergan, artistic director of three-time Drama Desk Award-nominated physical theater company Parallel Exit, with choreography and associate direction by Antoinette DiPietropolo and music direction by Rob Slowik. Tony Award-winning Lighting Designer Jeff Croiter (Peter and the Starcatcher, Something Rotten!), Scenic Designers Rob Bissinger (Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Legally Blonde – Assoc) and Anita LaScala (Magic Mike Live) of ARDA Studio, Inc, and Drama Desk-nominated Costume Designer Amy Clark (Heathers: The Musical, Chaplin) come together to create a vibrant environment to fit the momentous occasion.

Highly recommended for all ages. 

Through Sunday, April 1st.  For tickets and performance times visit or call 855-258-0718. Ticket prices range from $27.50 – $109 for VIP Ringside. Group tickets start at $17.50.  At 238 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md. 20745 (intersection of Waterfront St. and St. George Blvd.).  Parking is available in the National Harbor St. George or Mariner garages.

Cavalia Odysseo Rides Into National Harbor

Jordan Wright
September 23, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times

The Travelers III / Les voyageurs III

The Travelers III / Les voyageurs III

On October 9th the equine extravaganza that galloped into town four years ago will return with an even more spectacular show.  Sixty-nine horses ranging from Andalusian and Arabians, Belgians to Appaloosas, and Percherons to Paints along with other exotic horse breeds from around the world will grace a big top the size of two football fields.  But you don’t have to be horse crazy to be wowed by the beauty and raw power of these magnificent animals performing on a “stage” the size of two hockey rinks and a surface made of sand.

Forty-nine artists (half that number are actual riders) will ride in three major styles.  There’s the hell-bent-for-leather “Liberty” style; the side-by-side and in synch for the “Roman” style; and the elegant prancing and posing techniques best known for the elegant “Dressage” style.  Watching these massive beauties go through their paces is as riveting, as it is awe-inspiring, and a tribute to the intimate relationship riders and trainers have with their horses.

Grand Cavalia | Credits: Color-ish company

Grand Cavalia | Credits: Color-ish company

Canadian Marc-Olivier Leprohon, head of artistic and equestrian operations, spoke to the Alexandria Times about Cavalia Odysseo.

Can you describe the development of Cavalia Odysseo?

When we began in Quebec in 2011 we were twelve people.  Now there are 130 that are on the tour.  Also we bring on an extra one hundred people for seating and food wherever we go and another fifty people to help move the show, tear down the big top, and pack up supplies into one hundred trucks.

That’s a huge production!  What’s planned for the future?

There are two distinctly different shows, Cavalia and Cavalia Odysseo.  Our Artistic Director, Wayne Fowkes, has a goal is to create different shows in North America and around the world.  Right now it’s the biggest show ever built and includes a huge lake and a hill in the background that the horses run up and down.

What kind of surface do the horses perform on?

We all work in sand.  All of the acrobats or aerialists have to adapt, because the ground is not even.  Every day we smooth the sand and roll it.  It’s soft enough for the horses and compact enough for the artists.  In the show there is nothing to obstruct the view of the horses.  It’s like bringing nature indoors.  In the beginning the horses strut, then jump and canter.  We work them into dressage and finally into trick riding.  So their warm-up is actually on stage, not backstage.

How are the horses trained and do they perform in every show?

We follow what the horse wants to do and try to understand what they are telling us.  Each one is trained to do four different disciplines even though they don’t do the same things every day.  In addition we always have some that are in training when we are on the road.

Where do the horses go between cities?

We usually have two weeks in between that’s when we take them to a local farm.   Before we open at National Harbor they’ll stay on a farm in Delaware that provides sixty-three stalls with paddocks and fields to run around in with their friends.

Nomads / Nomades | Credits: Pascal Ratthé

Nomads / Nomades | Credits: Pascal Ratthé

Stephanie Evans is one of the artists in the show also spoke to the Alexandria Times about her experiences with the horses.  Raised on a horse farm in Canada, she has competed in many international equestrian events and trained in dressage in Lipica, Slovenia, the original home of the Lipizzaner breed.  She also learned equestrian skills in Spain at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre.

What is the breakdown of horse to rider and how do they get pampered?

Each rider is assigned three to six horses and each horse creates a bond with their rider.  We have eleven different breeds – – some are stallions and some are geldings.  On site we have round pens and an outdoor stand ring for sun and fresh air.  We travel with two vet techs who are in contact with local veterinarians and we have a farrier who travels with us in case a horse throws a shoe.

What are some of the quirks of their personalities? 

I have three horses I ride now.  One is an Andalusian stallion, who’s super relaxed, super sweet and super lazy.  Another Andalusian I ride is very excitable and always looking around for things.  Sometimes he is unpredictable!

Do the horses play well together?

No!  We have to separate them because we have a lot of stallions, although the geldings get along.  There is a group of Arabians that are in a big “Liberty” number and they get turned out together.  The oldest is fifteen and the youngest is five.

Why do you have so many stallions?

Stallions have a greater presence and are known for having more muscle tone.  Their mane and tail create a more visually impressive horse and they have more character.

Since the artists are from so many different countries how do they communicate with one another?

We mainly speak English and French.  You’ll also hear Spanish, Portuguese, and Susu since we have a big group from New Guinea.

Cavalia Odysseo opens at National Harbor, MD on October 9th and runs till October 27th.   For tickets and information visit

UPDATE: For the DC Metropolitan area a 50% discount will apply for a limited time only.  This major rebate will apply on all tickets for Cavalia’s newest production Odysseo

“The shutdown of the national government will affect thousands of employees and businesses in the Washington, DC area,” said Normand Latourelle, Cavalia’s Founder and Artistic Director.“Considering the impact of the shutdown on the local economy,we want to offer a special promotion so everyone can experience the magic of Odysseo.