I am so glad and proud that UniverSoul Circus has been around for 25 years and I have been covering it that entire time. From the first time that I saw this circus I knew I was dealing with something to cherish, something amazing that is Black-owned and is operated by Cedric Walker. From the first time I saw the circus until today it has had signature features that fans have come to know, love and wait for, such as the Soul Train Line, where five men and five women come from the audience and participate in a dance competition, men versus women. Another signature feature of this wonderful, fun circus is the big bouncy balls being tossed into the audience and everyone trying to get their tap. One of the most endearing aspects is the audience call and response, “When I say big top, you say circus.” Sometimes this call is said slowly and the audience responds slowly, and other times it’s said quickly and the audience responds quickly. The UniverSoul Circus is like a family reunion because the ringmaster always addresses the children in the audience, the young adults in the audience and the adults in the audience. There is never anyone left out, and makes special feature that everyone feel included.
As you watch the variety of acts that perform, you realize that UniverSoul Circus is about inclusion and diversity. The ringmaster Lucky is from Johannesburg, South Africa. There are acts from all over the world—Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, the U.S., Colombia, Russia, Cuba, Guinea, Mongolia and China. Sidekick Zeke, who was there in Atlanta in 1994, is still there today and he’s still got the moves!
The acts throughout the circus are very entertaining and at times fascinating to watch—they will take your breath away. The high energy of the show starts off with everyone’s favorite, the audience clapping competition. It’s so much fun. That was conducted by one of the clowns. A lovely ballerina danced as we heard people making comments about the importance of this circus during its 25th year. After the audience was engaged, then the marvelous calypso music began to play and the dancers from Trinidad and Tobago came out, along with the stilt-walkers and limbo dancers—signature acts of this incredible circus. This year they added enormously tall puppets that danced and got you feeling the music.
A dog act from Chile was absolutely delightful to experience. These dogs jump over bars, jump through cylinders, ride scooters and jump rope. They are absolutely adorable to see. In this act the humans got into the action and performed with the dogs, so that was pretty amusing as well.
The Willie family from Colombia did a tremendous tightrope act. They rode bikes and walked the tightrope balancing with a pole in their hands while one of them stood on the shoulders of the person walking. There was even a moment when one woman balanced on a man’s head, connecting to him only with one foot on his head.
The Soul Train Line was next and, as always, it was a blast! At the performance I attended, the men put it down! Using a pole that was hanging in the air, a couple did a very romantic dance—Duo Amore—bending their bodies in all kinds of interesting ways as they performed a lovely dance. The flexibility of their bodies was impressive to watch.
Audience participation was the name of the game next. Kids were called out and the “Little Einstein” theme played for them while they, along with the entire audience, sang the words. Music was played that appealed to those 16 and up and to the ladies in the audience. The entire audience had a marvelous time singing “My Girl.”
Rough riders from Russia and Trinidad and Tobago, both men and women, did fascinating moves while horses galloped around the ring. A few of the men were able to run and leap onto a galloping horse. These skilled riders could also climb around the horses’ necks as the horses kept galloping.
Acrobats working with a teetering board did a magnificent job as they flipped onto each other’s shoulders; a totem pole of men jumped rope. There was so much flipping and landing going on, you couldn’t blink because you didn’t want to miss a move.
I love the entertaining audience participation ideas that UniverSoul Circus uses; the audience danced in their seats to the “Cha Cha Slide” and they had a chance to sing and move to “Watch Me Whip.”
The second part of the circus opens with what I think is one of the most exciting acts I’ve experienced at any circus and that is the daredevil motorcyclists. These guys came roaring into the tent and were flying high—Wow, what an act! There are three men this year who are the daredevils, and their act is simply the thrill of a lifetime to experience!
Two young ladies did an act with another pole that hung in the air. Their moves displayed great skill and elegance. These young ladies are very limber. Then, it was bouncing ball time and everyone got involved. What fun that always is. A trapeze act was next and it was stunning to watch as the catcher switched acrobats by swinging them to each other.
This year the circus has a children’s dance competition, in which three children are picked by the clowns and dance their little hearts out with sections of the audience cheering them on.
As I have said, this circus is great when it comes to audience participation, and its creators are geniuses to realize that there can never be too much audience participation. Another staple that they did with the audience was Simon Says, and everyone enjoyed it immensely. The elephant act ends the show under the big top. The elephants sat up, balanced on two feet and lay down when told to do so.
Walker is to be acknowledged and congratulated on the fact that his circus does something that other circuses don’t. It works to cover what’s happening in the world at the moment, and it has the guts to reinforce positives and not negatives. The ringmaster had the children say a ringmaster pledge that encourages all to love everyone no matter the color of their skin or the difference of their beliefs.
This circus is one that everyone needs to see. You will be blessed with feelings of inspiration, hope, love and joy if you and your family go and see the UniverSoul Circus! It will play at Roy Wilkins Park in Queens through April 8; in Brooklyn at Floyd Bennett Field from April 11-29; and in Mount Vernon, N.Y., at Hutchinson Field, May 2-13. To get ticketsm, call 800-745-3000 or visit www.universoulcircus.com.