Considering the horrible accident that befell members of the Wallenda family troupe last week, you might have figured that this 20th anniversary edition of Circus Sarasota, titled “Synergy,” would not take place as planned, or that at the very least the closing act featuring Nik Wallenda and other high-wire artists would be postponed. But then you wouldn’t understand very much about the mindset of circus folk, for whom there was never any doubt that the show must go on.
And go on it did, opening Friday night, Feb. 10. (I attended the Feb. 11 evening performance.) Circus co-founders Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs did not reference the accident that sent five to the hospital, nor did ringmaster Joseph Bauer Jr. It was only discussed when Nik took the mic after the troupe performed a different act from the eight-person pyramid they had been practicing when members fell, to explain what had happened and update the audience on how they were doing—good news, despite many broken bones, an outcome he called “a miracle.”
That came at the evening’s end, after the circus had provided an entertaining show, one that opened with equestrian act the Alanian Riders, derived from the traditional military tactics of the Russian Cossacks. Three riders, two female and one male, accompanied by the sharp crack of the whip, race their stallions around the ring while hanging upside down, riding backwards, and lying horizontally across the horses’ backs—just generally every which way but loose. Impressive.
Also impressive: the work of 13-year-old Olesya Fedotova, no bigger than a minute but somehow able to balance herself on one hand while contorting her body into positions that would certainly be impossible for most of us. And she looks serene doing it.
Another act that proved enjoyable was the one featuring Menno and Emily Van Dyke, a Dutch juggler and a French ballerina who combine their skills into a dance routine of passion and style. It’s sexy, even as Menno nonchalantly juggles behind her back while she leans aggressively into him.
Cuban acrobatic duo Leosvel and Diosmani take things a step beyond the usual with their act centered on a tall pole they climb and hang from horizontally, even at times with one standing atop the other’s body with nothing but their hands on the pole to keep them from falling. The strength and precision involved here do have to be seen to be believed.
It’s perhaps almost too easy to take the artistry of aerialist Dolly Jacobs and her partner, Rafael Palacios, for granted. I’ve seen the duo soar high in the air while conveying the uplifting joy of love before, and have no new words to describe it, but it’s still lovely.
Lovely, too, the hula hoop mastery of Alesya Gulevich, who starts out with just three or four of the circles but soon seems to have a ton of colorful rings surrounding her body, which she manipulates in a way that turns her into a human Slinky.
On the humor end of the spectrum, the Pompeyo Family Dogs provide some fun, and Comic Trio Fumagalli probably entertained the youngest members of the crowd. I found the humor, which in one case involved some endless spit takes, too broad.
The show closes with the Wallenda company, and while it’s amazing enough at any time to see members ride bicycles across the wire, or, in the case of Khera Smith, rise from a sitting position on a chair balanced high above the ground, given the circumstances it’s nothing short of phenomenal. The show must go on, indeed.
“Synergy” continues through March 5 under the Big Top near the University Town Center; for tickets and info call (941) 355-9805 or visit circusarts.org.