When Austrian partners Bernhard Paul and André Heller took their newly founded Circus Roncalli on its first tour on 18 May 1976, they had an ambitious goal in mind: the renewal of circus. The "greatest poetry in the universe", as they described their circus in the programme, then set off on its acclaimed Journey to the Rainbow tour, captivating audiences from Vienna to Hamburg, Seville to Berlin, Brussels to Copenhagen and Munich to Moscow.
The novelty of the circus is perhaps due to its revival of tradition, of disappearing values and arts: wonderful old circus wagons, lovingly restored; a cheery, almost overwhelmingly exciting fairground atmosphere; graceful acrobats perched dizzyingly high above the audience; a bicycle under the circus dome; spinning balls rushing through the air; performers that contort themselves in miraculous ways and disappear into pipes; and a whole range of other spectacular sights. Bernhard Paul, the sole director of the circus since 1980, has a simple set of wishes: to conjure smiles in the midst of everyday life; to make people marvel and inspire them to dream. This is achieved through extensive tours and programmes full of poetry and nostalgia that never lose their power to enchant – and of course David Larible, the great clown and undisputed darling of the public, who has been top of the bill for many years. The circus has spent every winter since 1984 in Cologne-Mülheim, in a building with a fine circus tradition that previously belonged to Circus Williams before it was converted for Roncalli between 1984 and 1986.
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