Big Apple Circus comes to Philadelphia Mills mall

Come one, come all, to the Big Apple Circus.

It’s showtime: The Big Apple Circus will be at Philadelphia Mills through June 24 and include performances from contortionist Elayne Kramer (above), among others. JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

Come one, come all.

For the first time in decades, the Big Apple Circus makes its return to Philadelphia for a month full of performances starting May 23 through June 24.

Last Friday, Big Apple Circus, in the Philadelphia Mills mall red parking lot, hosted a Big Top Tent Raising.

Just a couple of years ago, this day seemed improbable for the circus founded in New York City. Big Apple Circus was experiencing some financial hardships when it declared for bankruptcy in 2016.

Big Top Works acquired Big Apple Circus in 2017, which gave the circus the opportunity to perform nationally during its 40th anniversary.

“It’s probably the preeminent circus in America right now given the fact that Ringling Brothers is no longer performing,” said chairman Neil Kahanovitz. “We have probably the greatest collection of circus acts performing anywhere in the world at this time.”


Those in attendance for the tent raising were able to get a sneak peek of what will be taking place inside from contortionist Elayne Kramer.

Kramer, in her second tour with Big Apple Circus, likened her performance to that of a gymnast, but with a twist. She balanced her whole body with one arm while on a pedestal during a two-minute presentation.

Her act, which she says will last about seven minutes, will include her balancing her body on her teeth and shooting a bow and arrow with her feet.

“I really enjoy looking at people’s faces and seeing their reactions when I perform,” she said. “That’s really what I live for.”

The audience will be in close proximity to the performers.

“It’s an intimate one-ring circus where there’s no seat more than 50 feet from the ring, so once you enter the tent, you really become part of the circus,” said Kahanovitz.


Vince Papale, former Eagle and subject of 2006 film Invincible, and current Eagle and Super Bowl champion Corey Clement were in attendance to hype the upcoming performance. Papale, whose wife was a gymnast, raved about the brief performance delivered by Kramer and talked about the parallels he sees between football and the circus.

“It takes tremendous teamwork to do them and it also takes trust,” said Papale. “If you don’t have trust in those people on the base, or the one that’s going to catch you, or the one that’s going to be walking on the wire, you’re just done,…it’s all about trust.”

In its 40th season, expectations have already been high, but Kahanovitz believes these performances will truly be historical.

“This year is circus history,” Kahanovitz said. “For the first time in the history of the circus anywhere in the world, the two most dangerous aerial feats are being performed in the same show.”

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