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Days of daring, drama & dragons

Circus comes to Charlotte with startling acts, animals and, of course, the clowns

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  • PREVIEW

    Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents ‘Dragons’

    WHEN: 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.

    WHERE: Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St.

    TICKETS: $10-$100.

    DETAILS: 800-745-3000; www.timewarnercablearena.com.

    GO DEEPER: Want some face time with the people (and animals) performing in the big ring? All ticketholders can attend the All-Access Preshow that includes performer autographs, juggling and balancing skill lessons and a chance to learn more about the circus animals. Attendees also can enter to win a picture painted by one of the Asian elephants. The preshow begins one hour before each performance. Details: www.ringling.com.



There’s a balance between keeping “The Greatest Show on Earth” true to its traditions while keeping up with fast-paced expectations of 21st-century entertainment.

When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Dragons” comes to Charlotte this weekend – one of 90 cities on its U.S. tour – audiences can expect a very different show than the one that traditionally comes to mind, said Alana Feld.

Feld is the executive vice president and producer of Feld Entertainment, the family business that’s now in its third generation of circus stewardship. Feld said she’s grown up with and treasures Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, noting the organization itself is more than 140 years old.

“It’s important we keep it going, and people can expect the unexpected. We’ll always be updating and contemporizing (while) holding on to some of the traditions that families so value,” she said.

Ringling honors the Chinese year of the dragon through a show that combines the realities of their live performers with a story about the mythical creatures. Close to 140 performers – the most in any of their 21st-century shows, Feld said – contribute to each performance, representing different dragon tribes that have gathered for the dragon games. Feld said different performers represent attributes of a dragon, such as courage, heart, strength and wisdom.

Within that story, Feld said, families can still expect to see their favorites, like the world-famous elephants, lions and tigers; the Cossacks – the riders that perform acrobatics on speeding horses – and The Flying Caceres trapeze artists, among others.

“In celebration of the dragon, we’ve brought in over 20 Shaolin Kung Fu warriors from China. It’s incredible what they can do with mind over matter,” Feld said, noting the audience will see them break steel and bend wood.

The Torres Family will also break a Ringling record by simultaneously racing eight motorcycles inside the 16-foot steel globe, she added.

In an age of entertainment instant-gratification made possible by electronic gadgets and the Internet, the circus still remains relevant because “there isn’t any other type of entertainment like it,” Feld said.

“Nowhere else in the world can you see all these incredible feats and our incredible animals in a theatrical setting.” And in an age where special effects have reached a whole new level of realism, Feld said, outside of some theatrical lighting, there are no special effects in the circus shows.

“What our performers do is real, there are no stuntmen, and I think that is something that’s really special.”

Trenda: 704-358-5089; @htrenda on Twitter
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