There is only one reason to put up with a job that involves traveling 30,000 miles and working 50 weeks a year. The circus came to Columbus yesterday for the first of eight shows that will run through Sunday in Value City Arena.
There is only one reason to put up with a job that involves traveling 30,000 miles and working 50 weeks a year.
“I love it — I absolutely love doing what I do,” said Alexander Lacey, a big-cat trainer and presenter for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “I’m getting paid to do my hobby.”
The circus came to Columbus yesterday for the first of eight shows that will run through Sunday in Value City Arena.
Lacey is part of the “Dragons” tour — one of three Ringling Bros. tours crisscrossing the country simultaneously. He spoke by phone last week from Albany, N.Y.
The 300 performers and behind-the-scenes workers in the tour travel in a private train. Many are accompanied by their spouses and children — which can make the schedule more tolerable. The circus provides teachers, who conduct school for the kids while traveling.
Still, it’s a grind. “There are no hours; it’s 24/7,”said Alex Petrov, who helps take care of the animals and performs a high-wire motorcycle act.
Here is a closer look at three performers:Alexander Lacey
Like many circus performers, the 37-year-old native of England grew up in a performing family. His father was a zoo and circus director, and his mother traveled with her own animal act.
Lacey didn’t travel the world with his parents; he attended boarding school from age 12 to 18.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “A lot of people grow up in the circus, and it is its own little world. But I got an education and got to live the life of a normal person.”
His job now certainly isn’t normal. Lacey gets up early each day to help care for the show’s lions and tigers. While doing so, he closely observes each animal.
“You have to pay attention and be able to tell which animal is in a good mood or a bad mood,” he said. “As a trainer, I can never ask an animal to do what the animal does not feel like doing.”
Because of his expertise, he said he doesn’t think his job is dangerous. But he knows that part of the act’s attraction is that the audience feels otherwise.
“They come to see the tiger trainer get eaten and the guy on the high wire fall,” he said. “It’s my job to eliminate that danger.”Alex Petrov
Originally from Bulgaria, both of Petrov’s parents immigrated to the United States to work as acrobats and aerialists for Ringling Bros.
His 74-year-old mother still travels with the circus, although she now works in the wardrobe department rather than as a performer.
Petrov’s act involves a variety of stunts while riding a motorcycle on a wire about five-eighths of an inch wide. He performs handstands and 360-degree spins on the bike. At other times, two women perform acrobatics while suspended beneath the bike.
A safety net alleviates much of the danger, and Petrov, 41, said there are few mishaps.
“We repeat the same thing so many times,” he said. “It’s like, once a person knows how to drive a car very well, it doesn’t matter if it’s a slippery surface or ice or snow, you know how to control the car. It’s the same with us.”
Despite his circus heritage, he said he would prefer that his three kids, ages 8 to 15, not follow in his footsteps.
“I prefer they get better jobs, like a lawyer or doctor or something different,” he said. “As a kid, my father wanted the same for me — not to be in the circus. But once I joined, he supported me.”Paulo dos Santos
About 10 years ago, dos Santos learned a life-changing lesson.
Born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, dos Santos, 29, is a “little person” — as people affected by dwarfism prefer to be called. He stands 3 feet, 4 inches tall.
He fell in love with the Brazilian art of capoeira, which combines dance and martial arts.
When he attended a capoeira school, though, other students ridiculed him. A teacher pulled him aside.
“She said, ‘Don’t worry about those people; they have a small head,’?” dos Santos said. “She said, ‘I will take you out of school and teach you .?.?. (separately).’?”
He returned to school for the final competition and won it. Several years later, while competing in Brazil’s national capoeira competition, he caught the eyes of two Ringling Bros. producers.
He joined the circus in 2009. He serves as a sidekick to ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and also does aerial acrobatics.
He gets the most enjoyment, he says, when he sees fellow “little people” come to the show.
“When I see other people like me, I have a message for them,” dos Santos said. “I tell them: ‘ Don’t worry about anything. You need to believe in yourself. If you have it in your heart, you can do anything.’?”