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  • 19.01.2018

    Chainsaw juggling, human cannonballs and Coco the Clown! The astounding 250-year story of circus

    • Description

      When was the first trapeze performance? Who launched ‘the greatest show on Earth’? And which showman was celebrated in song by the Beatles? Here’s a history of circus in 25 moments


      1. Roll up for the riding school

      In 1768, Philip Astley, a former cavalry officer, opens an equestrian school in London, close to the site that is now Waterloo station, giving riding lessons in the morning and performing trick riding stunts in the afternoon. Performances take place in a circular ring but it’s not called a circus. Within two years, acrobats and clowning are part of the mix.

      2. Tightropes and tumbling

      The first structure to be called a circus was the Royal Circus, built in 1782 by Astley’s protege and rival, Charles Hughes, close to what is now St George’s Circus in south London. Feats on show included horsemanship, tightrope walking, trampoline and tumbling acts. A decade later, Hughes took circus to the court of Catherine the Great in Russia, and one of his pupils, the Scotsman John Bill Ricketts, opened the US’s first circus in 1793, with President George Washington as one of the early attendees.

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