The Universoul Circus rolled out of town on Sunday, March 28, but only after entertaining thousands with feats of strength, agility and intense concentration.
The circus began its 2010 tour, dubbed “We Play Too…Much” at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on March 23. There was something for everyone, with acts ranging from stunt basketball players and Chinese aerialists, to a troop of African All-Stars launching each other high into the air off a see-saw contraption called a teeterboard.
This circus is a unique entertainment experience. It is also a brilliant mish-mash of cultures and talents.
Ringmaster Anthony “Tony Tone” Luewellyn got the party started with a series of jokes, and call-and-response chants, effectively designed to get the capacity crowd of 2,200 engaged in the experience. It’s pretty difficult not to get caught up in the energy of the moment.
The crowd was filled with families. Children screamed and danced in the aisles, and the performers danced along with them. While Ludacris’ latest single, “Go Low” blared from the speakers, the High Wire Daredevils obliged, doing splits on the steel wire, 25 feet in the air. The Daredevils also performed a “three-man high,” with three men balanced on each other’s shoulders as they crossed the wire. They also performed a “two-man high” with one performer balanced on the head of another as they crossed the line, all without the support of a net.
The Daredevils are a prime example of the multicultural aspect of the show. The group consisted of performers from the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Many of the acts included performers from various backgrounds. The Soul Circus Jumping Crew has members from Chicago and South Africa, and the African Dream Team members hail from several African nations.
One of the most captivating acts did not come from a country usually associated with “soul.” The Chinese Drumline and the China Soul Fliers displayed a level of choreography and ability few have witnessed.
The Soul Fliers elegantly circled the big top while hanging from golden silk ribbons. The group comprises six women and four men. The women balanced teacups on a two-piece crystal wand, using their mouths.
As they flew through the air, there were audible gasps from the crowd as necks craned upward to see these talented performers contort themselves into beautiful shapes and lines.
Tony Tone kept the crowd involved and engaged in between acts with a dance contest and a mass Hokie-Pokey session. There was another act that brought the crowd together and helped us bond. During intermission, children were able to take elephant rides around center ring. As the children rode the backs of the pacaderms, the crowd grimaced and gasped in horror as the elephants relieved themselves with reckless abandon. Audience members turned to each other in disgust and laughed. Strangers found themselves cringing together, and friendships were built for the duration of the show.
From cleaning up elephant dung to selling cotton candy, it takes an army to stage the Universoul Circus. The lighting and technical aspects of the show were remarkable. The music worked well to facilitate the action. And the stage crew moved like a giant organism, transforming the center ring at various times into a dance floor, animal cage and high-wire act, the transitions taking place in under 10 minutes each.
The cats act came out after intermission, thrilling the children in attendance and some of the adults, too. Six tigers, four white and two Bengal, jumped through hoops of fire and stood on their hind legs. There are few things as impressive as a massive tiger baring his teeth and purring as loud as the idling engine of a Volkswagen Beetle, while balancing on a stool.
The Universoul Circus is a memory builder. The faces of the children in attendance were worth the price of admission alone. The performers seemed to genuinely enjoy their work, and the effort put into each routine and stage change was apparent and well rehearsed.
I hadn’t been to a circus in over 20 years, but the Universoul Circus brought back fond memories, and changed my idea of what a circus is and should be.