By Anna Gustafson
Entertainers from around the globe will descend upon Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows this week when the Big Apple Circus launches its 14-show run that features Bello Nock, a world-renowned daredevil clown who describes his antics as something between Evel Knievel and Kramer from “Seinfeld.”
Nock, who has returned to the Big Apple Circus after a nine-season hiatus, will be joined by acrobats from Italy and Russia, a juggler from Spain, and trapeze artists from China for the 32nd season of the Big Apple Circus. The shows run from May 22 to June 6 in Cunningham Park.
“This year the show is called ‘Bello is Back,’ because it’s based around me, a comic daredevil who comes back to a place he’s been away from for many years,” Nock said. “But there is so much more to the show than this one guy. You have a husband-and-wife team from France and Kazakhstan working together with horses. We have a Bulgarian and Russian group who play and have a lot of fun. It’s amazing.”
A 41-year-old who hails from a family that has been in the performing arts since the 18th century, Nock said his acts land somewhere between Evel Knievel, an American motorcyclist known for his extreme jumps, and the humorous Kramer from the television show “Seinfeld” — whose upright hair mirrors what the circus bills as Nock’s “gravity defying hair.”
“If it’s daring or stupid, I do it,” Nock said.
The clown, who has been performing in circuses since he was 6 years old, left the Big Apple Circus nine seasons ago to tour with Ringling Brothers.
“When I was with the Ringling Brothers, we toured 50 weeks out of the year and saw about 4.5 million people a year,” Nock said. “You get to the point where you say you’re done with the big, now it’s time to go back to the intimate setting.”
Big Apple Circus officials say it is that close-knit environment — no seat in the tent is more than 50 feet from the ring — that distinguishes it from other performances. With a tent that can hold about 1,700 people, everyone can feel as though they are in the middle of the perfectly executed back flips or the tightrope acts, circus spokesman Philip Thurston said.
“There’s a real connection with the performers,” Thurston said. “The Big Apple Circus comes to town and brings to people performers who do things we can only dream about. They fly through the air, they juggle, they do amazing stunts and they bring a lot of laughter with the clowns.”
Though the circus has inevitably changed over the years — especially since the 18th century performances in which Nock’s family took part in Europe — the acts continue to draw individuals to the kind of entertainment that people of all ages can enjoy, Thurston said.
“It’s an old-fashioned family outing,” Thurston said. “It’s a great way for a family of multiple generations to come together an enjoy an afternoon. You can come to see the circus and the park as well, which is a blessing for Fresh Meadows.”
For Nock, whose family founded a circus in Switzerland that is still in existence and directed by one of Charlie Chaplin’s sons, the circus is a chance for people to leave their technological bubble and venture into a world where entertainers are not on a screen.
“There are no stunt doubles, take-twos, computer-generated graphics,” Nock said. “The glitz and glamour is right there. You can travel the world and never leave your seat. You can see the sweat dripping from a brow. It’s like Olympic athletes mixed with World Wrestling Entertainment drama.”
Circus tickets start at $15 and are available by calling 1-888-541-3750 or visiting bigapplecircus.org. The circus box office, located in front of the tent at Cunningham Park, will be open starting May 20 and hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.