Animal-free circus meets ice arena

Ban on animal ciscuses does not prevent long-time circus organiser Johann Said from putting up a spectacle

An artist performs at the Circus on Ice (Photos by Chris Mangion)
An artist performs at the Circus on Ice (Photos by Chris Mangion)
Artists performing at the Circus on Ice (Video by Chris Mangion)

When Maltese parliamentarians approved a bill in parliament banning animal circuses from the island, long-time circus organiser Johann Said was one of the few vociferous opponents of the law.

Animal circuses became increasingly controversial in past years, with animal rights activists holding annual demonstrations whenever animal circuses reached the island.

The protests were however successful in that the government enacted legislation just two months ago effectively banning animal circuses from the country. People like Said thought this was the end of circuses in Malta – but as he himself admitted, he has been proven wrong.

“I always opposed the idea of banning animals from circuses because I couldn’t see how a circus could be without animals. I was very sceptical of the thought, but the public has proven me wrong,” the third generation circus coordinator said.

Knowing that it would have been useless stamping his feet at a decision that was imminent, early January 2014 he started planning this festive season’s circus: a circus on ice.

With an ice arena required to remain frozen under -18 degrees Celsius, Said combined the traditional circus with magicians, clowns, trapeze artistes and ice skaters among others.

The artistes – among whom is European champion and aerialist, juggler and ice skater Zoe Baldock – hail from Italy, Poland, England, Colombia and Switzerland.

The highlight of the show is a dance on ice to the music from the animated movie Frozen’s theme ‘Let it go’ and the children’s favourite Olaf the snowman.

The forced absence of animals did not make the planning of the show any easier, especially since Circus on Ice is not a travelling circus but one where different artistes were brought together.

“The language barrier was one of the main problems. But despite the challenge, I must admit that I’m very satisfied with the outcome,” he said.

Said is also experiencing an increase in children visiting the circus: “With schools telling children that animals should be banned from circuses, we had noticed a drop in the number of children attending circuses. But this time round we have actually noticed an increase.”

Circus on Ice is being held in Marsa until 4 January with three daily shows at 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm.

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