Circus the Circus
Blue Ocean Strategy Institute BOS007 The Evolution of the Circus Industry (A) xOverall winner of the 2009 European Case Clearing House Awards xWinnerofa2006EuropeanCaseClearingHouseAwardinthecategory “Strategy and General Management” 06/2009-4999 This case was prepared by Matt Williamson, INSEAD MBA 2000, under the supervision of Professors W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne and Ben M. Bensaou, all at INSEAD. It is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.
Copyright © 2002, INSEAD-EAC, Fontainebleau, France. To order copies of INSEAD cases, see details on the back cover. Copies may not be made without permission. This document is authorized for use only by Janis Rozenbergs at Vidzeme University until August 2013. Copying or Blue Ocean Strategy Institute “If you ask a kid to draw a circus, they draw a tent. ” Pam Miller, Big Apple Circus, New York. Indeed, the circus tent is a unique and evocative icon that has featured prominently in circuses for centuries.
Relying heavily on a flamboyant entry into town, the big top was their primary tool to attract audiences to the spectacle taking place inside. Nevertheless, while the symbolism of the tent is important in the contemporary interpretation of circus, most early shows, particularly the European precursors of what would be recognized today as circus, took place in theatres and dedicated buildings. The Origins of the Circus The circus was created in 1768 by Philip Astley, an Englishman who set up a ring format for equestrian events, still in use today.
Classical circus is considered to consist of four elements, whether inside a tent or a large arena: equestrian acts, clowns, acrobats and jugglers. The word circus originally denoted a competitive arena for horses, with the Roman Circus Maximus the most imposing classical example. 1 The circular space is perfectly suited to a galloping act, and largely unnecessary for any other form. 2 The centrifugal force generated by a horse galloping around a small diameter ring enabled the equestrians in the show to stand on horseback and perform other similar tricks.
Juggling, tumbling and trained animal events had been popular through the ages, but by adding a clown to the mix to parody the other events and add some humor, Astley transformed these separate acts into a real show. 3 Astley’s innovation spread quickly throughout Europe and showed up in America in substantially the same form in the summer of 1785. Building on the basic equestrian component, legends such as P. T. Barnum and lesser-known players like W. W. Cole and George Bailey sponsored elaborate acts from trained zebras to trapeze artists.
Around the core circus, promoters grafted sideshows such as menageries, human and animal ‘curiosities’, and carnival games to enhance the spectacle of their shows. Barnum, perhaps the most celebrated huckster of modern times, was so successful that many of his efforts have entered the modern lexicon. He marched Jumbo the Elephant across the newly dedicated Brooklyn Bridge and proclaimed General Tom Thumb, a midget from Connecticut, the smallest human ever to have lived. The Development of the Traditional Circus
Though an extremely popular form of entertainment during the 19th and 20th century, the circus conjures an image of drifters and dreamers with gaudy clothes, aggressive hawkers and a standard routine of acts. Whereas whole towns had once turned out to see historical revues and the latest mechanical marvels along with other events as the circus passed through town, 1 Personal communication from Fred Dahlinger Jr. , Director, Collections and Research, Circus World Museum, May 9, 2001. Author’s interview with Dominique Jando, Associate Artistic Director, Big Apple Circus, May 8, 2001. 3 John Culhane, The American Circus (New York, USA: Henry Holt and Company, 1990), p. 1. CopTyhriisgdhot c©um20e0nt2isINaSuEthAoDriz-eEdAfCor use only by Janis Rozenbe1rgs at Vidzeme University until August 2013. 0C6o/2p0yi0n9g-o4r999 ———————– [pic] [pic] [pic] [pic] ———————– posting is an infringement of copyright. [email protected] harvard. edu or 617. 783. 7860.