On Thursday, we headed to the Allstate Arena for the annual Chicago visit of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus. The wee ones were beyond thrilled, as the circus coming to town is one of their favorite things. The fact that this year the circus was all about dragons, well... I kept that a surprise until we got there!
I knew the show celebrated the year of the dragon, but I didn't know how they were going to do it. The creativity was amazing, and the show was spectacular, as always, with a great mix of animal acts and acts of strength and agility and more.
We arrived in time for the all access preshow, where all ticketholders are invited to the show floor to try on costumes, interact with select performers, and watch some of the acts up close. The jugglers were fun to watch, and the wee ones loved learning the "dragon dance" that the performers did later during the show. The favorite, as always, was the elephant painting. This year, we saw a young elephant out for her first show who didn't paint but was oh-so-cute, and the twist to the "show" was that a clown competed in a painting contest with the elephant. Shockingly, the crowd voted that the elephant did the better job.
The other favorite (of mine, at least) preshow act was the dogs that did everything from play leapfrog jumping over each other to weaving through a person's legs as he walked to jumping though body part hoops. Those were some talented dogs and oh so cute to watch.
The introduction of the show was, as always, a huge production with all the performers appearing. I'll admit that I still have the song going through my head, which I think is a first for a production of this sort. I adored the dragon "cars" that depicted the various traits required for calling a dragon forth.
I had several favorite acts, and I took some really cool pictures. Of course with the dark and the way the lights are set up - and how fast some of the acts move! - many of my photos didn't turn out the way I wanted them to, but I'm happy that I have the memory of them.
The bareback riders were truly impressive. I love horses and riding, and there is no way I could do any of what they were doing. I thought it was really cool that they were standing while controlling the horses as they cantered into and around the ring.
I was wrong. What was really cool was when they jumped onto and off the horses, from one side to the other. And then when they crawled around the belly of the horse - all while it was cantering. No, it was when they started creating a pyramid on horseback while the horses were cantering around. Yikes!
I'm also a sucker for the big cats. They make me a little nervous, but I love seeing the interaction between the trainer and the animals and the grace the big cats show. Even the wee ones were oohing and ahhing over this one.
The perfect example of the cats making me smile with the interaction? I loved the lazy lion who didn't seem to want to get up on his platform. You can almost read his thoughts as he's lying there.
I was also fascinated by the new twist on the tightrope walkers. Years ago, the silk ropes hung from arena rafters became the new trick. The "dragon eyes" that the Sizzling Sirens of the Sky use for contortions within and outside of the balls. It was beautiful and unique - and something I'm sure will be copied by many others.
And who can forget the Shaolin warriors? Mister Man is way into martial arts, and he didn't move - and possibly didn't breathe - during the entire performance. I was so agog I forgot to take pictures of much of it. And they moved so fast my camera couldn't capture most of what I did take. Watching them bend metal poles around their necks and then unbend them was impressive enough. Balancing on the points of spears was eerie. And they didn't break boards; they had wooden poles broken over their heads and other body parts. This was the biggest proof of mind over matter I'd ever seen. Oh, and did I mention that they jumped through a wheel of knives? While it was on fire? And spinning? While wearing a black hood so they couldn't see? Wow. Just wow.
The one act that most freaked out Little Miss was the Medeiros Troupe. After they performed acrobatics around a motorcycle on a high wire, they suspended themselves via their hair and did acrobatics that way. As amazed as I was, I couldn't help but feel sympathetic pain for them. Watching one girl juggle while she dangled from her hair that was attached to the other girl's hair (who was suspended upsidedown herself) was truly impressive.
The show continued with so many acts. And of course, the four attributes displayed - heart, courage, wisdom, and strength - called forth the "dragon." It was so well tied together. I'm pretty sure this was my favorite circus ever.
As a reminder, the shows at Allstate Arena run:
Saturdays November 3 and 10 at 11:30am, 3:30pm, and 7:30pm
Sundays November 4 and 11 at 1pm and 5pm - special Spanish language concert after the 5pm show and tickets are $5 more
Wednesday through Friday November 7-9 at 7pm
The shows at the United Center are:
Wednesday November 14 at 7pm - $12 opening night tickets
Thursday and Friday November 15 and 16 at 10:30am and 7pm
Friday November 23 and Saturdays November 17 and 24 at 11:30am, 3:30pm, and 7:30pm
Sundays November 18 and 25 at 1pm and 5pm - special Spanish language concert after the 5pm show and tickets are $5 more
Tuesday November 20 at 7pm
Wednesday November 21 at 2pm and 7pm
Tickets range from $13 to $90 for the Circus Celebrity tickets (where you and your family are actually a part of the circus and which sell out quickly!), but I have a 40% discount code for weekday shows and 20% off all weekend shows. Simply enter the promo code MOM when you order your tickets. (Fine print: Weekday is defined as any show Monday through Thursday or Friday matinee, not including holidays such as the day after Thanksgiving. Discount does not apply to Circus Celebrity, Front Row, or VIP seats. No double discounts. Service charges, handling, and facility fees may apply.)
If you haven't already purchased your tickets, it isn't too late to use the discount code. Get your tickets quickly though, because Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus is only here for a little while longer!
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Feld Family Ambassador. As such, I am receiving complimentary tickets to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus as part of my outreach. I am not otherwise compensated. As always, all opinions expressed remain my own.