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Why Circus Lovers Should See This Documentary: The Last Great Circus Flyer
“May All Your Days Be Circus Days” is a phrase coined by the late Jack Ryan some many decades ago; Ryan is considered to be one of the greatest circus press agents of all time. When The Last Great Circus Flyer was originally released, Jack Ryan called the film "masterful" and the "best I’d ever seen" because it captures the true life for circus people. Ryan, who died in 2016, considered The Last Great Circus Flyer (created by director/producer Philip Weyland) to be a true documentation of circus history.
This commentator agrees with that viewpoint.
For those of us who’ve always wondered what it would be like to live the life of a circus flyer, this documentary should not be missed.
In 1982, 17-year-old Miguel Vazquez made headlines when he pulled off what was once the unimaginable; a quadruple somersault into the arms of his catcher (and brother), Juan Vazquez. This first happened during a practice session and later at a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performance -- with the video camera on. Big deal? You bet it was; this athletic feat made headlines around the country!
What does that mean? For those of us who love circus and the lure of the flying trapeze … it means everything.
The Last Great Circus Flyer is the story of Miguel Vazquez and the Flying Vazquez family; members of the troupe have varied over the years. Listed here in alphabetical order, they include (but are not limited to):
Felipe Vazquez, Juan Vazquez, Julianna Vazquez, Miguel Vazquez, Patricia Vazquez (Juan's wife), Rosa Vazquez (Miguel's wife), Vinicio Vazquez and Milton Zamudio. The family history and legacy lives on! The film documents these performers and most of their circus family.
Accessible on select devices, The Last Great Circus Flyer is now available through Video On Demand (from Amazon, Vimeo and iTunes). The documentary centers around the Vazquez family -- but it’s truly about the art, danger, fear and lure of trapeze. More than that, The Last Great Circus Flyer is a look at circus history.
In the Beginning
What is it like to grow up in a circus family? How did Miguel Vazquez become the Last Great Circus Flyer? In the beginning, the Vazquez brothers and sisters were acrobats; part of a larger family troupe. In 1977, they bought a used trapeze and began practicing for a flying act.
At age 16, Miguel Vazquez threw triple somersaults with amazing consistency.
1981 in Long Beach, California; Miguel was practicing the quad but the frustration began to set in -- he was ready to call it a day after a number of failed attempts. No, not yet, just one more try ... caught!!!
Irvin and Kenneth Feld of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus viewed the practice tapes of Miguel, Juan and the Flying Vazquez. They saw the potential for making circus history; the Felds brought the Vazquez troupe to the Greatest Show on Earth.
July 10, 1982 in Tucson, Arizona: Miguel Vazquez left the trapeze platform, took his swing, spun four complete turnovers and then caught the arms of his brother, Juan. The first quadruple somersault in circus performance history! The Flying Vazquez would continue to work on Ringling until 1989.
In 1990, the troupe won the coveted Golden Clown Award at the circus festival in Monte Carlo. A few years later, in 1994, Miguel Vazquez completed his final quadruple somersault; deciding that the pressure and expectations for each performance were just too draining. But that didn’t keep him out of the air … not by a long shot.
The Last Great Circus Flyer
In the beginning of this classic documentary, we viewers see a man in his late 40s as he prepares to take a step back into time. We see the wrapping of a trapeze bar; the taping of hands; climbing up a flimsy ladder; the patting of a rosin bag … and then, that first swing. We come along for the ride -- exactly as the flyer does! Feel the “whoosh” of the wind through your hair as you float through the air. Hear the wind as it whistles through the bar. Listen to the clinking of bars and jingling of chains that hold up the net below ... it is music to our ears. We take this ride with Miguel Vazquez. Although many years into retirement from the trapeze, the Last Great Circus Flyer is still as strong, agile, flexible and young as ever.
In addition to Miguel and his brother/catcher Juan Vazquez, The Last Great Circus Flyer features Juan's wife Patricia, Miguel's wife Rosa and other members of the Vasquez family. Many trapeze artists, circus performers and historians lend their voice to this documentary, including (but not limited to): Tony Steele, Jon Weiss, Terry Cavaretta, Bruno Vargas, and Ammed Tuniziani.
"I attempted to touch upon many subjects that have never been discussed on film," says director Philip Weyland. "I wanted a general audience to understand that trapeze -- and many other circus-related acts -- can be extremely dangerous. So much is taken for granted by today's public."
Filmed over seven years, this award-winning documentary includes performances from today's flyers at Circus Vargas, Cirque Du Soleil and the now-closed Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey show.
The Last Great Circus Flyer delves into the lives of a circus performing family as well as the history of the flying trapeze. But the two-hour film doesn’t stop with Miguel Vazquez’s performing years; it also looks at his life and activities during and following his trapeze career. When Miguel and Rosa got married, it was a true Ringling spectacle! Today, the couple and their children are living "happily-ever-after."
The Future of Trapeze
Will there be another flyer to actually throw a quadruple somersault? Well, yes, lightning has definitely struck twice!
Trapeze artist Ammed Tuniziani has mastered the four-somersault leap; flying into the arms of his catcher (Adriano De Quadra) during a number of performances with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (2016-2017). Tuniziani is quoted in The Last Great Circus Flyer (originally released in 2015); he tells filmmaker Philip Weyland about his dream to turn a quadruple somersault. After Ammed Tuniziani's first successful completion of the quad in performance, he excitedly called his friend and mentor, Miguel Vazquez, to share the news.
Yes, for a trapeze aficionado, this is a VERY big deal!
The Last Great Circus Flyer is now available for download purchase or rental on Amazon.com, iTunes and Vimeo, viewable on large number of devices. This documentary is a must-see for anyone who loves circus -- and especially for those of us who’ve always dreamed of flying from the trapeze.
Circus history is only as cemented as what historians will actually document. “Circus” in itself has changed so much over the last several decades; arguably, it is not what it used to be. Now that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is closed, the traditions of pure circus acts must survive with other performing shows in America, Europe around the world. “Circus” is, indeed, ever-changing -- and chronicling its history must be done now. Director Philip Weyland’s award-winning documentary will always be part of our circus tradition.
What are your circus memories? Have you ever dreamed of flying on the trapeze, doing somersaults on a cantering rosinback horse, training the big cats or donning the greasepaint and big floppy shoes? Scroll down to the comments section; tell us your circus stories, memories and fantasies. Circus is forever!
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© 2017 Teri Silver