Circus arts Information

A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include acrobats, clowns, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists. The word also describes the performance that they give, which is usually a series of acts that are choreographed to music and introduced by a "ringmaster". The traditional circus is held in an oval or circular arena called a ring, which has tiered seating around its edge. In the case of traveling circuses, this location is often a large tent which is nicknamed the "big top".

In Ancient Rome, the circus was a building for the exhibition of horse and chariot races, equestrian shows, staged battles, displays featuring trained animals, jugglers and acrobats. The circus of Rome is thought to have been influenced by the Greeks, with chariot racing and the exhibition of animals as traditional attractions. The Roman circus consisted of tiers of seats running parallel with the sides of the course, and forming a crescent around one of the ends. The lower seats were reserved for persons of rank; there were also various state boxes, e.g. for the giver of the games and his friends. In Ancient Rome the circus was the only public spectacle at which men and women were not separated. The Latin word circus comes from the Greek word kirkos, meaning "circle" or "ring".

The first circus in Rome was the Circus Maximus, in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. It was constructed during the monarchy and, at first, built completely from wood. After being rebuilt several times, the final version of the Circus Maximus could seat 250,000 people; it was built of stone and measured 400 m in length and 90 m in width. Next in importance to the Circus Maximus in Rome were the Circus Flaminius and the Circus Neronis, from the notoriety which it obtained through the Circensian pleasures of Nero. A fourth, the Circus of Maxentius, was constructed by Maxentius; the ruins of this circus have helped archaeologists to reconstruct the Roman circus.

Wikipedia, Circus arts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circus_arts (as of Apr 10, 2010)

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