“The dogs feel that performing in the Big Apple Circus is all about having fun,” said Jenny Vidbel, an animal trainer and performer who mainly uses mutts rescued from shelters in her act, plus horses and other animals. “They’re just so happy to be out of the pound. They want to learn every trick I have to teach them and they learn them very quickly. No pressure is ever put on them.”
Vidbel grew up traveling and eventually performing with her grandparents’ circus, which she and her sister later ran.
“Elephants were my babysitters,” she said. “They treated my sister and me like family and wrapped their trunks around us protectively to keep us safe.”
In the act she performs at the Big Apple Circus, returning to Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows, she has Liberty horses, well-trained horses that run freely around the ring without harnesses or bridles, a miniature horse and a very large Gypsy Vanner horse. When her animals aren’t touring, they live at her big farm in upstate New York. Recently, she toured for two years with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.
”The first time I performed by myself was at age 11, with a pony,” she said.
The performances in the new show, “Luminocity,” are centered around activities in Manhattan’s Times Square, so in Vidbel’s act a dog rides on the miniature horse when it’s costumed to look like a New York City taxi. The acts include Ty Tojo, an incredible teenage juggler from Japan (the holder of several records in the Guinness Book of World Records); the amazing Dosov Troupe from Russia, that works with a teeterboard; and the Russian Acro-Duo; Duo Guerrero (Werner Guerrero and Aura Cardinali), fantastic high-wire performers from Portugal who are both descended from circus families; the Canadian acrobat Daniel Cyr; and Pierre Ginet from France, whose clever act is full of surprises.
The Big Apple Circus will be at Cunningham Park, located at 196-22 Union Tpke. in Fresh Meadows, just west of Francis Lewis Boulevard, from May 18 to June 15. The show is two hours long with a 15-minute intermission and takes place in an air-conditioned tent. For tickets, go to www.bigapplecircus.org or call (888) 541-3750.
For more information, call the ticket information line at (800) 922-3772.