If you missed the excitement of live circus performance during the winter of 2021, you’ll be glad to know that Circus Sarasota is back, under the Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park.
Like many things we had come to take for granted, performances of the circus last season were affected by the pandemic. But now the one-ring show returns with the fun and feats fans are used to.
Some of this season’s performers, like Sarasota’s very own Bello and Annaliese Nock, will be familiar to the audience. Some are new faces. But as always, the lineup mixes high-in-the-air thrills with up-close hand balancing and juggling, an equestrian act, a dog act, and more. And this time around, a little bit more narration by ringmaster Joseph Bauer Jr., accompanied by some vintage photos, tells us the stories and backgrounds of the circus stars, making their devotion to the careers they’ve chosen clearer than ever.
As per tradition, the circus starts off with a horse act, the Daring Horseman Troupe, led by Caleb Carinci, who stands astride two equines, balances on one foot, and even leaps over a silk cloth tied the width of the ring to land safely back on his mount’s back. Next up: Annaliese Nock and her father, Bello, high above the ground on their swaypoles. Bello doubles as daredevil and clown, pretending to be afraid even as he shinnies up, does aerial handstands along with his daughter, and switches poles successfully with her without a slip.
Speed juggler Nilson Escobar makes his debut with Circus Sarasota here, and, as you’d expect from his job description, moves his pins around so fast it’s a blur, a bit like a laser light show. He has the dexterity and personality to make the audience bound to applaud him, even when he does on occasion drop a ball or a ring.
Hand balancing acts are always popular with Circus Sarasota audiences, and the Alexis Brothers are the ones dazzling this time around. Although sometimes the strain under which they place themselves can make one cringe, there’s no doubt the brothers have not just the strength but the agility, concentration and trust to pull off what should be impossible.
The second half of the show begins with the Pompeyo Family Dogs, with leader Jorge and his daughter coaxing their pups (mostly poodles, and rescue animals) into walking on their hind or front legs only, sailing over hurdles and through hoops and climbing a ladder from which one daring dog jumps boldly into Jorge’s arms. Trapeze artist Maria Chimeno follows the critters, flipping, twisting and hanging by her feet, apparently with ease.
Bello returns in the second half with a familiar but always successful routine involving a “volunteer” from the audience, balloon bow and arrows, and the William Tell Overture. It may be predictable, but it gets laughs.
There’s more hand balancing, along with contortionism, by Elayne Kramer. (Again, these body gyrations should not be possible, especially when done with a smile.) Then comes the big finale, with Bello and Annaliese a dynamic duo on what used to be called the Wheel of Death, but now may more often be termed the Wheel of Steel. (More audience-friendly, you know.) If you haven’t seen this act before, you should. If you have seen it before, you should see it again.
Circus Sarasota continues through March 6. For tickets call (941) 355-9805 or go to circusarts.org.