Ringling Bros. circus goes all out with current show Extreme poodles

By John Benson


These days everybody and everything is going extreme. Whether it’s sports, smart phones, shampoo or deodorant, if you’re not extreme you must be living in the 20th century.

One group jumping on the “radical, dude” bangwagon is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, which brings its latest show “Circus XTREME” to town for performances Saturday and Sunday at Covelli Centre.

“Like the title suggests, we are going absolutely extreme with this show and that goes to every single element,” said Feld Entertainment Executive Vice President and Ringling Bros. Producer Alana Feld, calling from New York City. “We have the most extreme performers who are pushing their bodies, what they can do and their talents to the absolute limits.”

That includes BMX trick riders and a bungee aerial skydiving display. While the show is billed as extreme, and obviously includes plenty of modern technology and attractions, there’s also something old school about the latest Ringling Bros. tour.

Specifically, it’s not hard to imagine an old time-y carnival barker attracting people by talking about the inclusion of high-wire wizards, powerful strongmen, trampoline daredevils, inconceivable contortionists and a high-flying human cannonball.

There are also wild animals, including Bengal tigers and two-humped camels ridden by brave Mongolian women.

“We have unbelievable animals that are again doing amazing and exciting things,” Feld said.

One of those animal attractions is “Dogs of the City” featuring Alex and Irina’s amazing poodles. Sure, on the surface, performing poodles may seem a little bit anticlimactic alongside tigers and camels, but what’s more extreme then taking a family pet and turning it into a circus act?

“I’m really proud of this show,” said Irina, calling from Bridgeport, Conn. “When you see the dancing dogs, they’re so much fun. They’ll be walking on their front and back legs, doing funny tricks and all combinations of things with cool music.

“The dogs love performing. Their tails wag meaning they’re a happy dog.”

In terms of training her poodles, Irina said the secret is to start when they’re puppies. Normally the process takes eight months or so, but not every dog is ready for show business.

Not only do the pretty canines have to learn a routine but they also must be comfortable within the circus atmosphere. That means sitting unleashed backstage as well as not being shy when around, say, ferocious tigers.

“I trust the dogs,” Irina aid. “Normally my dogs help me find the right tricks for them. I just have them do simple things. Some dogs love to bring me something, so that’s what I use. Some dogs love to jump. Other dogs love to lay on floor.”

In case you’re wondering if dogs are easier to train than, say, a monkey, Irina knows. She grew up in a circus family and had her own monkey act.

“Monkeys are easier and so much more fun,” Irina said. “They’re like a little small child. But now in the circus there aren’t any monkeys or elephants so that’s why I work with poodles.”

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