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Circus can refer to a specific set of performances, the venue or space in which such performances occur or to the company of performers who undertakes such performances.

The term Circus

The term Circus dates from Greek and Roman times (Greek "κίρκος", Latin "circus", meaning "circle" or "ring"), and refers to the circular performance space used by most circusses. Over the ages the space has been used for a variety of purposes and has taken numerous forms - from outdoor games, ceremonies and spectacles, to indoor events (in temporary, and/or permanent structures, including the well-known bell-tent). In time the term also referred to the performance form itself, and the name was used to refer to companies or troops of performers as well.

See Circus in Wikipedia[1] for a good general introduction the concept and references for further reading.

South African usage of the term

In South African the British usage was largely followed and the term circus thus initially tended to refer to outdoor or indoor performances demonstrating equestrian skills, usually by companies visiting the Cape Colony in the 19th century - the events possibly including some other vaudeville style acts to link the displays of horsemanship.

Later in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries however, the term was more specifically employed to refer to the more standard English definition, i.e. what Wikipedia[2] describes as "a company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other object manipulation and stunt-oriented artists". Usually a travelling show, performed in a tent.

Circusses in South Africa

For a history of the Circus in South Africa and a list of the various circus companies that have performed in the country, see the entry under:

Circus in South Africa


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928[3]

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