Summary: Since the 1800's, flea circuses have continually amazed audiences. Fleas are seen dancing, playing instruments, and moving objects several times their weight. It may seem like a mystery how the fleas can be trained to these tasks, but flea circus ringmasters usually have a few tricks up their sleeves.
The origin of the flea circus is hard to research because not all of the facts may be true. The people who ran the circuses usually made up information in order to attract more people to their shows. However, some interesting facts can be learned about the history of the flea circus.
A flea circus is an event at a circus in which fleas perform. The performances are usually absurd or unusual. For example, in some flea circuses, fleas can be seen moving tiny carts strapped to their backs. Some directors of flea circuses carefully study each individual flea to determine its strongest trait. It is then determined what type of trick is best suited for each flea. For example, fleas that seem to move around a lot can be trained as tiny dancers.
Fleas will eat blood from humans, so some directors will actually allow their fleas to bite their forearms. This is their reward for a job well done.
A specific type of flea called the human flea is the best pest to use for this kind of circus performance. Human fleas are a lot stronger than other types of their species. Female fleas are preferred over male fleas because they tend to be slightly larger. Because of the short lifespan of fleas, however, training them is a constant battle.
The Mexicans have a special tradition for their fleas called pulgas vestidas, or œdressed fleas. They dress dead fleas up in special costumes to go along with the theme for the circus they will be featured in. The most popular theme is a wedding party, followed by costumes of historical figures. Costumes for the fleas are hand-made. Much of the unique apparel can be seen at several museums throughout the world.
Any good flea performers need to be able to amaze the audience, so they are trained to give the illusion of moving certain objects. In order to do this, an individual flea has a string of thread or fine wire wrapped around its neck, which is then hooked onto its prop. The flea can then walk around looking like it is dragging objects twice its size. Other directors glue fleas in place to ensure that they will not wander off.
Some fleas are trained not to jump. They are placed in a container or jar with a secure lid and left there for a short while. During this time, the fleas will try to escape, but cannot climb up onto the walls of the jar. This discourages them from jumping, which helps them in their circus performances.
Flea circuses date back all the way to the 1800's. The most renowned performer of that time period was L. Bertolotto. Because of Bertolotto and other such directors, the tiny flea performers quickly became famous throughout the world. In fact, for the past fifty years or so, a flea circus has performed at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Both Long Beach, California, and Coney Island, New York, have served as hosts to regular flea circuses.
As time went on, flea circuses became less popular. One reason for the decline is because people learned proper hygiene and became cleanlier. Therefore, fewer fleas were around for the circus shows. The fad died out in the United States in the 1930's, and became almost obsolete in the 1960's.
The directors of flea circuses refer to themselves as œprofessors. Some famous professors of the past include Michael Bentine, who hosted a flea circus television show in the 1960's, as well as Professor Heckler, whose flea circus is included in the movie Easy Rider. Some flea circuses are still around today, including Professor Adam G. Gertsacov's, which tours North America. Gertsacov was trained in acting as well as circus performance through Ringling Brothers Clown College, which may have led him to start his flea circus tour. In his act, two fleas named Midge and Madge are able to pull a mini-chariot across the ring.
Several movies have mentioned flea circuses in their scripts, including A Bug's Life and Jurassic Park. Charlie Chaplin starred in the screenplay Limelight and was seen directing a flea circus in the movie.
Some illusionists create fake flea circuses because of the limited number of fleas available. These circuses can be created using different gadgets and a variety of technological methods in order to give the appearance of the presence of fleas.
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