Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Summer Circus Spectacular 2014
The Circus Arts Conservatory at the Historic Asolo Theater

Dolly Jacobs
Sarasota is the circus capital of the U.S.A. if not the world. For many years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus wintered here, preparing the next year's show. This continued well into the years when that show came under the ownership of Irvin Feld. Now, the Feld organization has relocated their headquarters to nearby Palmetto where they will operate costume and scenic shops, rehearsal space, and room to finalize and stage their many shows. Because of this, many prominent circus families have made Sarasota their home, including The Flying Wallendas (Nick Wallenda is the gentleman who recently walked across Niagara Falls and then the Grand Canyon). The organization that used to produce Circus Sarasota each winter has now greatly expanded its operations under the title The Circus Arts Conservatory. Besides Circus Sarasota they oversee PAL Sailor Circus, the oldest circus training program for young people in the country, and several joint ventures including this one, The Summer Circus Spectacular 2014, in conjunction with The Ringling Museum of Art.

The lineup of talent in a one-hour show makes the use of the word spectacular seem reasonable. Patrons are greeted at the entrance by clown Chris Allison who is featured in two acts in the show. He is very enjoyable interacting with the audience as they arrive, and this carries over to his featured spots. One starts with juggling balls and ends with spinning extra large balls, the other includes juggling scarves and bounce/juggling the large balls. First up in the main show is Vladimir Kim who manipulates various objects on a black lit stage, creating beautiful light patterns. The last object that he twirls and spins is an open cube of aluminum rods, approximately 4-1/2 ft across. Just being able to spin this is amazing; the colors just make it more so. After Chris Allison's first spot comes Dolly Jacobs, Sarasota's Queen of the Air. She and husband Pedro Reis are at the head of The Circus Arts Conservatory. Her circus heritage (she is the daughter of legendary clown Lou Jacobs) is unquestionable and she still cuts a lovely figure flying around on hand straps. Chris Allison has a second spot next, followed by Christian Stoinev, hand balancer (he is currently competing on this season's "America's Got Talent"). His act opens with impressive balancing, frequently on one hand, and at one point balancing on one finger, perched in a wine bottle. The second part of his act features his chihuahua who scampers all over him as he does slow summersaults and other moves. In the finale slot are quick change illusionists Vladimir and Olga Smirnov. I have seen this act featured in Circus Sarasota, but I don't tire of it. It is a delight seeing her change her complete outfit in just a few seconds. The entire show is anchored by young Ringmistress Bailey Sloan, a student at PAL Sailor Program. She is very poised giving background information on all the acts.

All of the performers are available in the large lobby area for audience members to take pictures and chat with, making this highly entertaining show more immediately personal.

With paid admission to The Summer Circus Spectacular 2014, $5.00 additional will allow access to The Ringling Museum's Circus Museum exhibits, including the 44,000 piece Howard Bros. model circus, believed to be the largest model circus in the world. I have had the opportunity to tour these and highly recommend them.

The Summer Circus Spectacular 2014 presented by The Circus Arts Conservatory and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art through August 2, 2014, at the Historic Asolo Theater. For more information:

Photo: Provided by Circus Sarasota

--William S. Oser

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