10 Offbeat Circuses

Cirque du soleil performs in the air and on the stage during the opening ceremony of the Toronto 2015 PanAm games.
Circuses have experienced many permutations and adaptations since the first one centuries ago. Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

I wonder if it would surprise 18th century Britons to hear circuses described as "traditional" versus "offbeat." After all, the modern circus has always been a little countercultural. While it might attract audience members from all walks of life and social statuses, it certainly showcased the kind of performers that were considered "alternative," in their times — and perhaps it still does.

The circuses we'll look at take the concept of the old Barnum-and-Bailey-Ringling-Bros. circus and either tweak it just a bit or turn it completely on its (hair-hanging, gravity-defying) head. We'll start with a circus that originated as a bit of an eccentric take, and later became one of the most popular live shows around. Step right up, ladies and gentleman, to learn all about the exotic Canadian circus that would become the Circus of the Sun. (Or something like that.)