By Kay Kipling
Photos by Ian Dean
A sellout crowd turned out under the Big Top near Ed Smith Stadium for this year’s opening night of Circus Sarasota, and, as usual, they laughed, they cheered and they even held their breath at times—the ultimate tribute to the fun, chills and thrills this hometown circus always provides.
Neither the performers nor the fans can ever get complacent about that mix of live excitement, though. The wonder of the circus, as with any live entertainment, is that the performers really are doing it anew every time, no matter how many weeks and months they’ve practiced and rehearsed, and each show truly is different.
That’s especially dramatic, of course, with the headliners of this year’s show, daredevil Nik Wallenda and his wife, Erendira, sister, Lijana, and cousin, Blake, who take to the high wire for the circus’s closing act. People expect miracles each time the troupe performs, especially after Nik’s high-profile Niagara Falls walk, and they won’t be let down by the act, which includes Lijana doing splits on the wire and also rising from a chair high atop a pyramid balanced on bicycles. You may want to look away out of anxiety for their safety, but you won’t be able to.
The Wallendas earned a standing ovation, naturally, but so did returning hand balancer Encho Keryazov, who manages to pivot and extend his body in ways that would be amazing enough even if he weren’t doing it on one hand atop a slim rod inserted into a small platform. The audience loved him last year, and they loved him again Friday night.
Ringmaster Paul Binder, a co-founder of the Big Apple Circus, introduced all of the acts, including the Jiocke bareback riders; Natalya and Jorge Pompeyo and their canine crew; quick change artists Vladimir and Olga Smirnov; ventriloquist Willer Nicolodi (a favorite with the kids in the audience); and comedic acrobats Duo Manducas, who may play for laughs but are nevertheless strong and agile. New to the circus are jugglers Duo Platchkov, a male-female pairing where the female, Aline, actually does more of the juggling (kind of a switch) and Rafael Palacios, a new partner this season for aerialist Dolly Jacobs.
It’s a well-blended and satisfying line-up that should please all of the many Circus Sarasota fans around town. The show continues through Feb. 15; call 355-9805 or go to circussarasota.org for tickets.