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Circus Sarasota

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 Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages head to Circus Sarasota’s Big Top.   By Kay Kipling   It may be a challenge for Circus Sarasota co-founder Pedro Reis to come up with a diverse and entertaining lineup each year (this season is the company’s 13th for its big winter production), but it’s very easy for […]

February 16, 2010


 Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages head to Circus Sarasota’s Big Top.
 
By Kay Kipling
 
It may be a challenge for Circus Sarasota co-founder Pedro Reis to come up with a diverse and entertaining lineup each year (this season is the company’s 13th for its big winter production), but it’s very easy for an audience member to just sit back and enjoy the fast-paced, alternately funny and dramatic results.
 
Playing to fuller houses than usual the weekend I attended, Circus Sarasota seems to be having a good season both artistically and at the box office. That’s good news for circus fans, who are bound to respond to the nine acts (plus ringmaster Joseph Bauer Jr.) performing under the Big Top.
 

The show gets under way with Vince Bruce, a British-born “cowboy” who rides into the ring astride two horses and proceeds to demonstrate his prowess with the rope and his whip (best trick is the one where he slashes a newspaper into progressively smaller strips, with cool precision). Like juggler Casey Boehmer (who manages to do amazing things with just one arm), Bruce is a repeat performer here, but it’s been a while and the act doesn’t feel old.

Rope and whip dazzler Vince Bruce.

 

Neither does the comedy of clown Renaldo (whom one person described to me as a cross between Harpo Marx and Charlie Chaplin). Using just his whistle, body language and facial expressions, he manages to convey a wide range of emotions as he employs “volunteers” from the audience for his gags, including one where he’s shooting a movie featuring a bullfighter, a Spanish senorita and a bull. You may have seen this or something like it before, too, but all the same, it feels different every time.
 

Quick-change artist Martyn Chabry really is different; while we’ve all seen the magic of those lightning-like costume changes before, her act incorporates very different hairstyles and, more importantly, a variety of musical instruments she plays in between changes. The xylophone work here is especially impressive.

 Martyn Chabry at work.

 

Impressive is also a good word for the foot juggling (or Risley) act of Fabio and Giuliano Anastasini. These brothers make it all look easy, as the younger one is tossed into the air by the older one’s feet alone, doing seemingly effortless somersaults and flips.

 The Anastasini brothers.

 

The circus also showcases the balancing feats of Almas Meirmanov, the poodles of Zhanna Alferova (watch out, they look like little lions here) and the aerial artistry of Dolly Jacobs and Yuri Rjkov (this time performing to a tango theme). But it’s only fitting that the show’s biggest applause comes with the high-wire work of the Wallenda troupe (which closes the performance). Yes, they do the seven-person pyramid; and yes, it alone is probably worth the price of admission for circus aficionados.

 Zhanna Alferova and her poodles.

Circus Sarasota continues performances in the tent opposite Ed Smith Stadium through Feb. 28 before heading to Fort Myers for its March shows. For tickets call 355-9805; head to circussarasota.org for more info.

All photos by Ian Dean