Asher on Aspen: Beautiful Chaos
Asher on Aspen
We could smell the popcorn before we could even see the tent. Charlie ran ahead to be first in line for cotton candy. The big-top tent with red and white stripes revealed itself as we got closer and the chaos began. Inside a tent tucked in Snowmass Base Village sat the one-ring Circus Bella.
Upon entering the tent, we were greeted by a man with a handlebar mustache wearing a red tuxedo who was elated to show us to our seats. We sat down for maybe a minute before my cousins insisted we get snacks. The concession area was packed with characters in silly costumes and I took delight in watching the elaborate scene unfold around me.
Jungle animals adorned the faces of kids who were battling with their sword-shaped balloons. Guests couldn’t walk two feet without being asked if they wanted an ice-cold lemonade or a bag of caramel popcorn. The whole room lit up with bright colors and dazzling costumes. Children pranced around in anticipation for the big spectacle that was about to begin.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please take your seats,” said an assertive voice over the loudspeaker. Secretly, I think I was just as excited as the youngsters. All I could envision was a scene from one of three circus movies that instantly come to mind: “Dumbo,” “The Greatest Showman” and “Water for Elephants.”
“Join us as we enter into the kaleidoscope,” a woman said as the performers walked onstage.
The lights dimmed and the children looked up with wide-eyed wonder. Five minutes into the performance and I was already impressed. The human body is capable of so much more than what we typically observe on a daily basis. A ballerina wore point shoes across a tightrope. Acrobats scampered up each other’s shoulders to form a pyramid. An aerialist twisted her way up and down a silk rope while touching her toes to her head. The jugglers were exceptional, and the balancing acts were cringeworthy.
Forget any fear of clowns. Circus Bella features an aerialist, contortionist, acrobat, a trapeze artist, a six-piece all-star band and a full cast of performers who each have their own unique talent. This 12-year-old circus, based in San Francisco, is animal-free and — thankfully — clown-free, as well. Oh, and did I mention there’s a family act with parents who juggle their four daughters around as if they’re bowling pins? It’s bizarre and completely entertaining all at the same time.
“How does her body not just snap in half?” my cousin David innocently asked while watching a contortionist show off her extreme flexibility. Nail-biting patrons sat on the edge of their seats with curiosity and fear as to what was going to happen next. With a circus, the unexpected randomness is half the fun. A juggler could drop the fifth glow-in-the dark ball that gets thrown at him, a dancer could lose her balance on the tightrope or the spotlight could accidentally get placed on the wrong person. Anything is possible in show business and the live aspect is what keeps people on their toes.
The secret weapon of the spectacle was undoubtedly the sextet group of musicians that sat on a platform above and behind the stage: the Circus Bella All Star Band. The music accompanied each act, adding heightened drama, suspense, comedy and mood — proving to be just as vital to the show as the acrobats, lighting, costumes and stage design. The music helped to create a particular emotion at the exact right moment that elevated the overall experience.
Sometimes, it’s even more intriguing to look around at the audience and watch people’s faces instead of putting all of one’s focus on the performers. In an age of entertainment overload, it was refreshing to see everyone’s attention glued to the stage, as opposed to down at their digital devices. With a constant flow and variety of entertainment, the patrons never seemed to lose interest.
Circus Bella brought a stealthy mix of contemporary circus movements and old-school charm. The two-hour production provided entertainment for the whole family — never leaving the crowd with a dull moment. Above all, the circus encapsulated the beauty of what humans can do together and what we all are capable of. The show shines a light on the goodness of humanity, cooperation, dance, music, laughter and togetherness.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.