Circus Knie combines humour, poetry and tradition

The balloon jugglers are favourite act at the Circus Knie. Christoph Grünig

The Knie circus dynasty has rolled into Berne bringing with it all the traditional magic of the Big Top.

This content was published on August 8, 2000 - 18:42

For this family circus with a 180-year-old tradition, the smell of greasepaint and the enthusiasm of the crowd are all-important.

"The Swiss public still likes the traditional circus," Knie's press officer, Kris Krenger, told swissinfo. "Maybe they don't want to see wild animals or acts that frighten them, but otherwise they demand the real traditional circus.

"Of course, public tastes change. They see things on television. They see other circuses like the Cirque de Soleil from Canada, which is more theatre than circus. We've adapted some elements of that into our show."

In keeping with the tried-and-true tradition, the Knie programme this year includes clowns and jugglers from Switzerland, acrobats from China, an aerial act from Russia and the gentler animal acts with elephants, horses, zebras and even pigeons.

The theme of the programme is humour and poetry, and a pair of jugglers provide some of that humour. They indulge in slow juggling with huge blue balloons.

Krenger said tongue in cheek that the slowness is part of the act and not because the two jugglers come from Berne where the inhabitants have a reputation for being slow.

Asked about the main challenges facing the Circus Knie, Krenger immediately pointed to television. "But I think the circus still has a chance because it's live. A live show is still more attractive than the best show on television."

The Knies refer to their circus as Switzerland's national circus, but there's nothing official or even semi-official about it. It has earned the title "national" purely by virtue of the fact that it visits all parts of the country.

With 53 cities and towns on its seven-month tour this year, the Knie ranks as the busiest of all circuses today.

Pulling into Berne on two special trains, with a tent for 2,600 spectators and180 workers from 12 countries, the Knie is undoubtedly Switzerland's biggest circus.

It was established in the mid-1800s by Friedrich Knie and in 1919 his grandsons set up a permanent company and moved into a traditional circus tent.

by Paul Sufrin

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