BY BARBARA ARNSTEIN
Something wonderful happens whenever the Acrobuffos perform. When the daffy clowns interact with adults in the audience, the grown-ups relax and play like children, dueling with pool noodles. When they used their clowning skills for special performances in Afghanistan, they successfully communicated lifesaving messages to children about the dangers of land mines and malaria.
Husband and wife team Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone have performed together in 20 countries and are performing for the first time with the Big Apple Circus, returning in May to Cunningham Park, and also for the first time in the United States as the Acrobuffos. Their Big Apple shows include classic slapstick and costumes featuring masks covering half their faces, which they wear to portray the characters “Madame” and “Monsieur.”
“Acrobuffos” is an abbreviation of acrobatic buffoons. They exhibit all the agility of expert acrobats, as well as dancing and juggling talent. Bloom attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, and Gelsone went to the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater, but both learned a lot about grabbing the attention of audiences while performing for passing pedestrians.
“We developed the humor skills to stop people on the way to lunch, and make them forget about eating,” said Gelsone.
Offstage, they enjoy traveling together in their circus trailer as much as they love performing. When they married in China six years ago, the bride wore a dress made of white balloons. They have brought laughter to small towns and cities, parks and parades, festivals and fairs, and at a stadium in China, they entertained an audience of three thousand.
The other Big Apple Circus acts include a woman who shoots arrows from bows using her toes (yes, that is right, she does archery with her arches), Jenny Vidbel and her well-trained horses, ponies and pups, an all-female acrobatic troupe from China that performs on bicycles, tango-dancing jugglers, acrobats who soar, suspended only by silk fabric and straps, a trapeze artist who performs on a swaying slack wire and much more! This year’s title is “Legendarium” and its segments involve the history of the modern circus.
The Big Apple Circus returns to Cunningham Park in Queens on May 19 and runs through June 16. Tickets start at $20 and are available by calling (888) 541-3750 or at bigapplecircus.org. The show runs for just over two hours (with an intermission) and is air-conditioned in warm weather. For more information, call the Ticket Info Line at (800) 922-3772.