Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

2019 Circus SarasotaCircus Arts Conservatory
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Burn This and Turandot

Hans Klose Canines
Photo by Cliff Roles
Sarasota is Circus Town USA. John Ringling made Venice, in the southern part of the county, the winter home for his Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey touring show beginning in 1927, and he and his beloved Mabel resided in town at their Ca' d'Zan Mansion, now incorporated into the Ringling Museum of Art. So is it any wonder that excitement builds when Circus Arts Conservatory unveils the yearly edition of Circus Sarasota at Nathan Benderson Park?

The first half is a little flat, possibly due to multiple mishaps at the performance I attended, often on ultimate feats. We are welcomed by ringmaster Joseph Bauer, Jr. before Ambra Andrine, who makes Sarasota her home, opens the show with equestrian and aerial lyra. In the past Ms. Andrine showed four white horses with one chestnut mare. This year she adds a second beautiful chestnut to her troupe. The horses prance around the ring, do a few tricks and at the start and finish of the act, Ms. Andrine takes to the air for acrobatics with a small hoop.

The chief eye-popping skill of Victor Krachinov, juggler from Russia, is starting his routines by tossing all but one of whatever he is going to juggle, followed by the single odd unit. This is not an easy maneuver and he does it very well. Unfortunately, there were a lot of drops when I saw him perform, although his recovery is excellent. Cesar Dias, clown from Portugal, performs a routine involving an audience member. He had a spectacularly good outing because his choice of partner from the audience turned out to be very lively, a firecracker to work with. I briefly wondered if he might have been a plant.

With Circus Sarasota there is always a dog act, this time the Hans Klose Canines. The dogs are six standard poodles, and eight smaller dogs (Pomeranian, Jack Russell terrier, several Chihuahua mixes and other mixes). Being a dog lover and owner, this is the highlight of the first half for me. The Carrillos on high wire are the finale to the act. Pedro Carrillo and partner Luis D. Acosta, along with Pedro's wife Tatjana form the act. They perform some really heart-stopping jumps over each other on the high wire, but two attempts by Acosta at a backwards double failed.

The second half opens with Sons Company, Einar Kling Odencrants and Anton Graaf from Sweden on teeterboard. Their act incorporates dance into the flying stunts. Valerie Inertie from Quebec takes the ring to perform with the Cyr wheel, a six-foot metal hula hoop. Program notes tell me that she studied the art with inventor Daniel Cyr and is the first female soloist in this discipline. After a slow start the act picks up and the wow factor is unmistakable, the strongest act so far. The Curatola Bros., Giuseppe and Emanuel Curatola, from Italy bring an act that is a mixture of comedy and acrobatics, leaning toward hand-balancing.

Caesar Diaz performs a routine built around singing "My Way" to a track and having everything go wrong, pants falling down, mic cord getting caught inside clothing, missing important measures, you name it. The routine is quite well played out. The Kolev Sisters from Italy bring their hand-balancing act. Heretofore, I have only seen men attempt this discipline, which requires upper body strength greater than that for almost any other circus act. Nicole and Michelle Kolev perform feat after feat and at the end the crowd leapt to its collective feet for a heart-felt standing ovation.

Ringmaster Joseph Bower returns, this time billed as Joseph Dominic Bower, and takes to the "wheel of destiny," also known as the "wheel of death." I have never seen Mr. Bower perform in any capacity other than as ringmaster, so this was a complete surprise. He does tricks inside the wheel before the obligatory outside traverses. On the outside, he jumps rope and finally does two rotations double blindfolded. During the jump roping he had a stumble which was very real as he took a few moments to pull himself together before attempting it a second time. All of this is heart stopping, deservedly the finale to a great afternoon. In an interesting aside, Mr. Bower is assisted by Annaliese Nock, herself a fine performer on this apparatus.

Circus Sarasota, because of the city's fabled history, is able to bring world class acts to entertain us. This year's edition may start a little slow, but the cumulative entertainment value is high and I urge audiences who love the art form, as I do, to not miss this production.

Circus Arts Conservatory's 2019 Circus Sarasota, through March 10, 2019, at Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota FL. For more information, visit