WITH a name like Ross Presto you might expect to be with a dapper magician, all white rabbits and top hats, but no, this Ross Presto is better known as Angelo the clown.
He’s also the artistic director of the ‘all-human’ Netherlands National Circus, which sets up its big top at Leith Links next week, and he’s quick to explain the emphasis on the ‘all-human’ tag.
“Over the years, there have always been changes in the style of the tradition, or as we now call it ‘classical circus,’ he says.
“The circus is a tradition, but a living one, if we don’t move on artistically and introduce new things as well as keeping elements like the clowns, the aerialists and the acrobats, it would become fossilised and therefore not remain fresh and popular.
“For us, not having animals is an artistic choice, just as we have chosen not to have a traditional ringmaster - our show is fast moving so we decided not to have announcements between the acts.”
Those acts come from all over the world, and Presto is rightfully proud of the show he has put together.
“Our flying trapeze troupe are from Australia where there is an excellent state-run circus training school. The Aussies think very highly of circus arts and The Flying Aces are the very first Australian flyers to work in the UK.
“The springboard acrobats are from Romania. Their state circus schools are based on the Russian system and the springboard (a see-saw type apparatus) is an Eastern European speciality.
“Caroline, our trapeze artist is English. She joined her first circus as a dancer and enjoyed it so much that she trained as an aerial artiste and our Rola Rola performer David Robert is from Italy, his family have been in the circus for three generations.”
Born and raised in the circus, Presto himself comes from a long line of travelling entertainers.
“My father and grandfather were clowns before me - my grandfather ran his own circus in Portugal.
“I learned from them and from the artistes in the show. I was a child acrobat at seven years old, then I did the hand-balance act, which my daughter Desiree does now (pictured above), and then some aerial work, but I enjoy clowning and decided to follow in the family tradition.”
Presto has no doubt why circus has retained its popularity, “There’s something for everyone. Fun for the kids, glamorous performers and great performing skills to please and thrill the adults. It’s a real family event, one of the few left these days.”
• The Netherlands National Circus, Leith Links, Tuesday-Sunday, various times and prices, www.netherlandscircus.eu