Big Apple Circus @ Lincoln Center
Big Apple Circus @ Lincoln Center

Last Tuesday January 5th major movers and shakers in the circus community gathered to celebrate the 2nd Annual Celebration of American Circus. Circus Now and Big Apple Circus in association with JSCTheatricals presented honorees with various awards reflecting achievements throughout their many years in the circus arts. Renowned curators, writers and performers within the circus world including Preston Scott, Duncan Wall, David Shiner and Dolly Jacobs were there to help celebrate and present winners with awards for Community Impact, Evolving the Circus, Elevating the Circus and lastly, the award for Lifetime Achievement given to author, teacher and performer, Hovey Burgess.

Sisters Anna Venizelos and Emily Venizelos doing Contortionist Act
Sisters Anna Venizelos and Emily Venizelos doing their Contortionist Act

It was difficult to know what to expect from the event as it was an award show and not necessarily a performance. One might have expected theatrics like a lady doing tricks on an elephant, or a lion tamer, although there were no elephants or lions (a quick glance at the Big Apple Circus website illustrates they use only horses and dogs who are treated like any of the other talent on staff). There were performances by jugglers, contortionist sisters and Aerial performers intermittently throughout the evening. We even got a few hat tricks from presenter David Shiner and award winner Bill Irwin towards the end of the ceremony. Rob Slowik led the orchestra, which was situated above the stage adding to the scene those vaudeville sounds we associate with the circus from our childhood. All in all, it was an entertaining evening for the winners and audience members alike.

Below are the winners chosen by the Celebration Planning Committee and voted on by a select panel composed of various leaders in the circus arts sector:


Community Impact Award – Cirkus Smirkus

This award is given annually to a circus artist or organization that has succeeded in harnessing and demonstrating the power of circus arts for community engagement and social good, and in bringing diverse audiences together through quality programming.

Elevating Circus Award – Dominique Jando

This award is given annually to an individual or an organization who has made a lasting contribution to increasing public awareness about the beauty, artistry, creative potential of the circus arts through their body of work, with particular attention paid to interdisciplinary collaboration or expression.

Evolving Circus Award – Bill Irwin

This award is given annually to an individual whose personal and/or professional contributions have made a significant and permanent impact on the circus field in America, with specific consideration of how the recipient’s work has influenced the perception of the circus arts by the American public and the arts and entertainment industry.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Hovey Burgess

This award is given to an individual artist, troupe, or company whose overall contributions to the field and community are substantial, undeniable and significant.

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