When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey act comes to AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday, Jan. 9, it will bring with it the King Charles Troupe. A revival to Ringling Bros., the King Charles Troupe will perform the spirited and fiery competition of basketball with the next generation of whirling unicyclists.
The King Charles Troupe was first featured in 1969 by Ringling Bros. producer Irvin Feld, grandfather of producers Nicole Feld and Alana Feld.
The troupe’s origins are tied to events that began in 1918, when a young boy by the name of Jerry King slipped under the tent to see Ringling’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Enamored, all he recalled from that day were the elephants and the man on the high-wire riding a unicycle.
In 1958, as a father who was concerned with the social events occurring within his community in South Bronx, King taught his son Charles and every kid in the neighborhood, who wanted to learn, to ride a unicycle.
He started a unicycle club and laid down certain rules to follow, such as discipline, direction and Christian principals.
Ten years later, the troupe auditioned on the sidewalk outside of Madison Square Garden to Irvin Feld producer of Ringling Bros.
The audition was a success and the King Charles Troupe made its debut with Ringling Bros. in 1969, becoming the first all-black act in the history of the circus. Lead by King’s son Charles the King Charles Troupe, reigned in popularity for nearly 20 years with The Greatest Show On Earth. Since then the troupe has performed for stage productions domestically and internationally.
Now a new generation of producers Nicole Feld and Alana Feld and the next generation of the King Charles Troupe have come together again in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Built To Amaze!
Originally from the Bronx, New York, troupe leader Kim Anthony Jones (Kip) joined the King Charles Troupe at the age of 15. With a background in gymnastics, on a whim he accompanied a friend to the troupe’s tryouts, and has been performing with the King Charles Troup ever since.
Most recently, he accomplished a record setting 164 single jumps on a unicycle while double-dutch jump-roping. Jones and the troupe of 12 basketball players will show a continuous, whirling display of one-wheeled excitement while perilously perched on unicycles, some teetering more than 10 feet in the air.
The show, whose tickets start at $16, runs through Jan. 20. Call 800-745-3000 or visit ringling.com