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Ringling Bros. celebrates dragons
Circus runs Thursday through Sunday at Power Balance Pavilion
'Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presents Dragons'
TIMES: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Power Balance Pavilion, One Sports Parkway, Sacramento
TICKETS: $15 to $92
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presents its newest show, "Dragons," Thursday through Sunday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.
Big cat trainer Alexander Lacey, who hails from Great Britain, spoke with us recently by telephone.
"This year is a fantastic program. The show is so diverse. The show's theme celebrates the Year of the Dragon, and the story is that the best performers from all four corners of the Earth are brought together. Every performer has a representative theme — there's strength, courage, wisdom and heart," Lacey said.
"The cats and I represent courage. I work with a mixed act — lions and tigers — which is quite unusual. The last time we had a mixed act in Ringling Bros. was 12 years ago, so it has been a long time since the public has had a chance to see lions working alongside tigers," he said.
Lacey said the show includes Shaolin warriors from China; Cossack riders who do trick riding on the horses; and the Globe of Steel with a world record-breaking eight motorcycle riders performing inside at speeds up to 65 miles per hour.
"Then we also have the elephants — and two baby elephants this year that are also traveling with us. They are in training and traveling alongside their mums," he said.
"It's a very fast-paced show with an excellent ringmaster who takes the audience along on this little journey. It's a very modern show but also traditional family entertainment with something for everyone."
Lacey said he has been to California before, but this is the first time he has performed in California. The big cats have been the Lacey family's vocation for many years: Together they have raised more than 11 generations of lions and nine generations of tigers.
Lacey's wife, Elaine, and 8-year-old daughter, Katrina, also travel with him. "While we've been over here, we had the opportunity to go to Disneyland because we were in Anaheim. We did Cars Land as well, which was great," he said.
"While we were in Los Angeles, we did the Hollywood thing and saw all the stars' homes — did all the tourist things. Then we were near San Francisco, so we went to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz," he added.
"We try to go out and see the world in every city that we go to. Normally, we have the time in the first two days after we arrive. We make sure the animals are all settled in and comfortable, and then we have our first two afternoons free. After that, we are busy for the rest of the week, but we manage to make time where we can," Lacey said.
Ninety minutes before each show, the circus hosts an animal open house, which is included in the ticket price. "This is where the public can get to see all the animals. They get to go behind the scenes and ask the trainers questions and see how we care for the animals. After the open house, you can go into the arena and meet the artists, get their autograph or have your photo taken with them," Lacey said.
"During my act, I have a microphone so the public can hear how I communicate with the animals and how the lions and tigers actually respond to verbal commands. There is one part of the act where a lion 'attacks' me, but it's all for show. She pins me up against the side of the cage, but then I turn around and tell the public, 'Don't worry, folks — it's all for show,' and we get quite a laugh from that," he said.
"But everything is a trained movement. So when the lion appears to be attacking me, it's a trained movement. They are trained to attack on command, but also to stop.
"It's a little bit like the dogs in the police force. They are trained to attack and bring down a criminal, but they don't actually stand over the criminal and start ripping him to pieces. They just bring him to the ground, where they are trained to stop," Lacey said.
He added that Ringling is proud to host the Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida — a private facility dedicated to the retirement and breeding of the Asian elephant. "It's the biggest and most successful facility in the Western Hemisphere, and it's something that the American public should be very proud of because we don't have anything like that in Europe," Lacey said.