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Tent of mirrors back for second season

Industry News | October 1, 2008 | By:

A special kind of circus housed in a rare style of tent returned for a second season in downtown Manhattan, according to the Economist.

The Spiegelworld circus is targeted toward adults with a bawdy set of burlesque and acrobatics, and it has an ideal setting in a richly adorned spiegeltent, a type of European travelling tent (spiegeltent is Dutch for “tent of mirrors”). Only a handful of these tents are still in use today.

The wood-and-canvas tent is decked out in mirrors, velvet and stained glass. Spiegeltents were originally built in Belgium around the turn of the 20th century to function as mobile dance halls. The few that are left — some estimate there are fewer than 20 — are seen in different locations around the world for arts festivals and the like.

The spiegeltent that has graced Pier 17 in Manhattan for the last two summers dates from the 1920s and holds around 350 people on banquettes and wooden chairs.

Vallejo Gantner, one of the show’s producers and a “spiegeltent aficionado,” told the Economist that only two families in Belgium and the Netherlands still know how to make the tents, and these families do produce new tents occasionally. “But you know it when you walk into an old one,” Gantner said. “They have a special boutique quality.”

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