‘The New American Circus’, by Ernest Albrecht

Ernest Albrecht is the foremost circus writer in the US and, although this book is now over 20 years old, it still holds a wealth of information that’s relevant to circus companies today. It’s also a fascinating insight into the preoccupations and ideologies of the movers and shakers who began to shift circus in America away from three-ring spectacle and back towards a more European style of presentation.

Albrecht conducted over 40 interviews with those at the helm of new and established circus organisations, as well as with those who worked around them. The book focuses on the development of four main companies – Pickle Family Circus, Big Apple Circus, Cirque du Soleil, and Circus Flora – dedicating a chapter to each, but with the connecting threads of their stories clearly interwoven.

The influence of Russian circus artists on the evolving American style is studied, and chapters are also dedicated to the financial, educational and political aspects of circus at the end of the 20th Century, much of which still resonates today.

The book is illustrated with black and white images, as well as a colour central section, and is written with an accessible journalistic style that prevents the significant research from becoming overwhelming. Behind the ‘new American circus’ are people with dreams and ambitions and hardships; through their eyes we are able to get a broader picture of the landscape of circus in the US.

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Albrecht, Ernest. The New American Circus. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995) ISBN: 0-8130-1364-X

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  1. You inspired me to pick up this book again, after I first read it 20 years ago. I think it needs a sequel!! As all of the companies profiled have continued to have interesting stories, and a few new ones have joined the scene in major ways.

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