Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Big Top HolidaysSailor Circus
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Straight White Men

Sailor Circus began 69 years ago, as young wannabe circus performers practiced and rehearsed for a show on the fields of Sarasota High School. The high school teams were nicknamed "sailors," hence the name of the circus. This is the 7th year that this show has been under auspices of Circus Arts Conservatory, which maintains year-round young people's training programs in all manner of performing skills. The kids often start when very young and continue through high school. The focus and mental attitudes they learn serve them well in whatever endeavors they pursue. Sailor Circus is always performed between Christmas and New Year's Eve, a highlight of the holiday season and always a sell out. Because of renovations at the Circus Arts Conservatory arena, this year's show, Big Top Holidays, is being performed under the Ulla Searing Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park, usually occupied by Circus Sarasota, which performs in about six weeks.

The line-up shows off a wide variety of performing skills, and it amazes me that the young people have such varied skill sets. It is true that none of the acts reach quite the level of excitement of professionals circus acts, but professionals don't offer the winsomeness of these kids, many of whom haven't reached the full extent of their physical strength. After a couple of acts, I adjusted my expectations of visceral thrills and just sat back and enjoyed all the individual performers, marveling at their abilities. Each and every member of the cast is a super star in their own right.

The more than two hour show contains its share of thrills, laughs, and all things that make circus perfect family entertainment. I shared a box with a young boy, age about eight or nine, his grandparents, and his mother. He was wide-eyed in the wonderment of it all. Just across an aisle was another family, and more were scattered about the one-ring arena.

Highlights of the program include a pre-show flying trapeze act performed outside the tent because of height requirements, several aerial acts, a bicycle built for five, unicycle adagio, and acrobatic roller-skating—and that is only the first half. The second half includes the opening stilts act, an incredible slack-rope performance, some nifty juggling, and for the grand finale, acrobatics/teeterboard performed onto an inflatable mat.

Something I adore about Circus Arts Conservatory is that all manner of safety will never be compromised, especially with the kids.

Rush down to Benderson Park for a family outing. I had a blast.

Circus Arts Conservatory presents Sailor Circus' Big Top Holidays, through December 30, 2018, at Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota FL. For more information, visit

Ringmasters: Teagan Allen, Silas Bichler, Rylee Grover, Grace Johnson, Rylee Roulette
Others: Scott Barcomb, Gabby Barmash, Jayde Barnes, Lila Board, Aiden Bracewell, Patrick Brown, Lila Burgess, Kennedy Cameron, Jeanni Castro, Sarah Catalano, Emma Clarke, Jared Gracia David, Reese Dennis, Kaylee Dutkiewicz, Maya Gordon, Bryce Griggs, Caleb Gross, Channing Gross, Cambria Grover, Rylee Grover, Dana Habedank, Lillian Hafner, Callahan Harchuck, Scott Horowitz, Sydney Horowitz, Grace Johnson, Tom Johnson, Anna Labiner, Kylee Langeneger, Lisa Larson, Colin Leonard, Ethan Lubow, Josie Marcaluso, Charlie Mathewson, Olivia Miley, Lynzee Miller, Grace Milton,Willa Nance, Walter Nord, Emily Oneill, Jade Ortrwein, Jillian Perry,Jake Peterman, Teresa Powell, Rylee Roulette, Cora Thayer, Lila Watkins, Ashton Whitacre, Ellie Winer

In certain acts students alternate performances.