Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

OvationCircus Sarasota
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Rhinoceros

Duo Kvas
Photo by Cliff Roles
Passing near University Parkway last week I glanced over and saw the big blue tent behind University Town Center which can only mean one thing: Circus Sarasota was about to open. And open it has, with this year's production Ovation. Regular readers already know that circus is one of my great loves, has been since being taken to the traveling editions of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey as a child.

With several of Sarasota's premiere circus families out with other shows (The Wallendas with The Big Apple Circus, Bello Nock in Hawaii, I'm told) this year's line up is not as consistently exciting as some previous editions, but the best acts still get the heart racing, and the audience is treated to two hours of fine entertainment.

After greetings from the heads of Circus Arts Conservatory, Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs-Reis, we meet Joseph Domenic Bauer, Jr., our mellifluous and uber handsome Ringmaster. Act one opens with Sylvia Zerbini and her Liberty Horses. Circus Sarasota is a one-ring show, and the ring is the universal standard 42 ft, so when there are nine beautiful animals (eight white, one mahogany) prancing around, that is enough spectacle, but the moves this year do not seem as sharp as I have seen in the past. Next up is AJ Silver and a "wild west" lasso and whip act. (That Silver is really Angelo Iodice and hails from The Bronx adds a bit of whimsy to it all.) Next up is Jimmy Folco, our featured clown with his first spot.

JuJu (Julia Figuiere and Julien Posada) from France next perform a dance act on the wire four feet off the floor. I love this act; it's very different from any wire act I have ever seen, focusing on dance and romantic interaction rather than athletic feats—although, don't be fooled, their skill set is solid. Anastasini Soccer Dogs close the first half as two packs of Boston terriers representing Brazil and the U.S. and one dachshund on the U.S. team battle it out for World Cup glory. Keeping watch at the goals are an English bulldog who yawned through the game at the performance I attended, and a boxer who so badly wanted into the game that he pulled the goal into the center of the playing field. For dog lovers, this is all great fun.

Opening the second half are quick change artists Vladimir and Olga Smirnov, local Sarasotans, but circus stars the world over. Their presentation this time out seems even more vividly colorful than ever, and the audience eats them up. The flying Cortes family is next on the trapeze. Featured are Robinson (catcher) and Alex (premiere flyer), who I would guess are brothers, Robinson's wife Alida, their daughter Ysabella, and Rachael Hutinger who trained at Florida State University's The High Flying Circus program. Alex attempts the legendary triple somersault, which he missed the first time but he returned immediately to succeed. Thrilling stuff!

Kirill Rebkovets, rolo bolo artist from St. Petersburg, Russia, is next. This is definitely one of the best rolo bolo acts I've ever seen. Jimmy Folco returns with an audience participation spot as he selects four people to play instruments in a concerto. Folco does a great job getting the best from all his assistants, making this his best spot. Kris Kremo, a juggler of a certain age, who based a large portion of his career in Las Vegas, is next. I liked his juggling of red top hats best. In the final spot is hand-balancing Duo Kvas, who began their career in Ukraine. Vladimir Kostenko and Anton Savchenko are the performers and they have some really "wow" moves. After a closing promenade of all the performers, they were available to greet audiences and sign programs, something that Circus Sarasota always does and which I find to be a lovely touch.

Circus Sarasota is always a wonderful show, one I look forward to every year. Circus Arts Conservatory also has youth programs and a variety of other things going on all year, so be sure to check out their website, linked below, to learn more about them.

Circus Arts Conservatory presents Ovation, through March 4, 2018, at Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota FL. For more information, visit