Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Circus Sarasota
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Nik Wallenda (left) and Troupe
Photo Courtesy Circus Arts Conservatory
Celebrating 20 years, Circus Sarasota presents this year's edition, Synergy. Unfortunately, the show is under a bit of a dark cloud, because when the Wallenda Troupe recently rehearsed a planned eight-man pyramid that would have set a new world record, there was an accident and five members fell off the wire from heights as high as 50 feet above the ring. Miraculously, no one suffered permanent injuries, and all will recover. Nik Wallenda's aunt, Rietta Wallenda, was the most seriously injured, with multiple broken bones. Nik announced at Sunday's performance that she is recovering well and is expected to leave the hospital in about 10 days. Another member who was injured, Blake Wallenda, actually performed on Sunday, albeit with several broken toes. Nik was lavish in his praise to God that all his family members would fully recover. Circus being an integral part of Sarasota's history, the show must go on, and on it went.

Synergy is ring mastered by Joseph Bauer, Jr. as it has been all the years I have been fortunate enough to attend. He is a very handsome man with great charisma and a voice that stirs up the excitement. As always, it is great to have him in this position. The opening act is the Alanian Riders from "the steppes of Russia": two beautiful women, one handsome male, riding three beautiful horses. Lev Gigolaev, Veronica Painter, and Ashley Pletcher do many kinds of thrilling tricks, while Murat Chekhoev is the trainer. This act gets things off to a great start.

Then it's time to bring on the clowns, this year the Trio Fumagalli from Italy. The act stars Fumagalli as the comic, his brother Daris as his straight man and in the second act, and Fumagalli's son Nikolai. Their first act spots are good but they really hit their stride in a very funny second act feature. Next up are Menno and Emily Van Dyke from Amsterdam and France, respectively. He juggles, she joins him in the tango while he is still juggling. I don't think the crowd fully realized the difficulties of juggling when you don't always have the clearest view of the balls or indian clubs. It is a terrific act, both parts lovely to watch.

Olesya Fedotova from Nizhny Tagil, Russia, wows the crowd with a combination of hand balancing and contortion. She is thirteen years old; her youth is a plus for the contortion, but at that tender age she has probably not reached her full strength. One can only imagine her as a mature performer when she is this spectacular already. The eternally youthful aerialist Dolly Jacobs and Rafael Palacios, who has joined her for the past few years, glide through the air with grace. They make Peter Pan seem like a hack; perhaps Dolly was the one who taught him to fly.

The act one finale spot goes to Leosvel & Diosmani from Cuba. They perform superhuman acrobatics on an upright pole. All I can say is they have earned this spot with their dazzling performance.

Act two always opens with dogs, this year the Pompeyo Family dogs. The family consists of a whole bunch of poodles of various sizes and one chihuahua, who seems to have wandered in for the grub. These are rescue dogs, which adds to the audience love. Next is Alesya Gulevich from Russia, the holder of three Guinness World Records awards, working with hula hoops. Ms. Gulevich manipulates so many hoops that in her finale I was unable to count how many she had going. Suffice it to say that in the penultimate trick she was working with 10 hoops. The crowd and I both enjoyed her performance very much.

After Fumagalli's second act feature comes The Wallendas. Previously, they ended their act with the world record seven-man pyramid. That consists of four men on the bottom, two men on the second level, and a woman riding a chair on the top. Nik reported in a curtain speech that they had practiced the eight-man stunt many times in his backyard and a couple of times under Circus Sarasota's tent, but it was not to be. But the Wallendas did not let the crowd down, what they performed was stunning and exciting. Nik's speech after the act was heartfelt, reporting on the conditions of all of his family members. Circus being central to the life-blood of this area, the accident was front page news and there has been some erroneous information floating around. Nik is a class act all the way and perhaps he rose to even new heights with this.

I have been a circus buff all of my life. I remember being taken to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus when they came through Boston and I am familiar with many previous generation stars as well as current ones. I look forward to each year's edition of Circus Sarasota and this year's show, Synergy, is equal to their best. Now bring on Bailey Sloan to help with ring master duties and a spectacular show will get just a little bit better. Don't miss the all too brief opportunity to see this year's edition.

Circus Arts Conservatory presents Synergy through March 5, 2017, at Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota. For more information, visit