Circus Ronaldo however
is a small family concern, very much in keeping with the romantic
circus tradition. They have performed generation upon generation,
and the arts have been passed on from generation to generation.
Danny and David are the sixth generation,
and it looks as if the seventh, even though still very small,
will follow suit.
It all started when Adolf Peter
Vandenberghe, who came from Ghent and was born in
1827, ran away from home at the age of fifteen and joined
the circus. Starting off as a groom, tradition has it that
he soon worked his way up and became one of the best acrobats
of his age. The family has a print of an advertisement for
the imperial circus of St. Petersburg in its possession, showing
Adolf Peter doing a pas-de-deux together with someone who
is assumed to be Camille Lerou, a well-known horsewoman. In
Alsace-Lorraine Adolf Peter met the daughter of some actors
who were travelling around in caravans.
Johnny Ronaldo: "And it was from
this meeting that quite spontaneously and unconsciously, the
mixture of circus and theatre developed.”
From the start of the century to the thirties, the third generation,
Johnny’s grandfather, staged mainly cloak and dagger
pieces under the name of Volkstheater Vandenberghe. All the
elements of circus had virtually disappeared. There were occasional
acrobatics, as for example when a market scene was staged.
The grandfather gave up his own theatre
in 1933 and after the war became involved with amateur companies.
This was followed by a deviation from the male side of the
family. Even though the sons went into theatre or the circus
as clowns or acrobats on a bicycle, it was his daughter’s
children, Jan and Herman Van den Broeck,
who picked up the thread once more. The latter joined the
circus as a musician, where he also learned juggling. From
the fifties the brothers performed musical variety theatre
under the name of Ronaldo. They simply liked the sound of
the name. Jan became Johnny Ronaldo, and twenty years later
they used this artist’s name once more for their circus.
The two brothers started the circus in 1971, but three
years later Herman decided to give it up along with his nomadic
existence, and take on a steady job with the Flanders Ballet
as a piano accompanist. Jan’s, or should we say Johnny’s,
sons (David & Danny) were now the sixth generation, and
it was through them that Circus Ronaldo moved towards theatre,
long before the flowering of French circus theatres during
the early nineties.
For 25 years they battled for recognition.
It was thanks to the Flemish cultural ambassador award that
they were able to focus attention on themselves. Also in the
‘official’ theatre world. This even resulted in
a co-production with PCT Dommelhof and the Toneelhuis, and
with an indoor version of Fili in the Bourla theatre.
But now they are back on the road with their
new tent. They have remained themselves, and do not present
audiences with a reconstruction of early circus or early comedy.
Nor do their performances contain high-tech and acrobatic
highlights; there is no punk, orchestrated chaos or anything
Circus Ronaldo is not an imitation of
a circus or a symptom of the age. It is not an idea that was
thought out on paper and is now being put into practice. Circus
Ronaldo is Circus Ronaldo, pure and simple.
Circus Ronaldo is supported by the Flemish Community and the Province of Antwerp.