Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Born to Juggle

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Born to Juggle

Article excerpt

New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was extra busy one recent night. While Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti aimed for the high notes in the Opera House, and Polish maestro Krzysztof Penderecki conducted the premiere of his Fifth Symphony over in the Orchestra Hall, Mexican juggler Arturo Alegria faced an equally tough job just across the plaza, under the tent of the Big Apple Circus.

How to keep five ping-pony balls afloat all at the same time, using only his mouth to catch and blow them back in the air? But such is life in the only circus deemed good enough to pitch its "big top" in the heart of New York's cultural mecca.

Alegria is the show's high-speed acrobatic juggler, a sort of manic Charlie Chaplin dressed in a toreador-like white "suit of lights," now making his New York debut in the twentieth-anniversary year of this prestigious traveling circus.

His stock-in-trade are not the torches or daggers juggled in stale novelty acts. He prefers to toss about everyday objects, like Mexican hats and soccer balls, the very things that inspire children to go home and give it a try. But his act comes with a twist. Between catches Alegria is likely to somersault or spin a cartwheel, or, if feeling really good, do a vault with a double twist.

He knows quite well how a circus act might move a child to dream high-wire dreams. Alegria's grandfather, Jose, who founded the Mexican traveling Circus Alegria, taught him to walk on his hands almost before he could stand on two feet. His father, Alfonso, was a lion tamer, and his trapeze artist brother, Sabu, has gone on to Ringling Brothers and a European career.

"My birth certificate says I was born in Zacatecas," he says, "but that just happened to be where our caravan was at the time. I was born in the circus, and this is where I plan to be buried. The same will probably be true for my three-year-old son, and so on and so forth until people stop paying to see clowns and jugglers and acrobats and trained horses. …

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