Having watched daredevil Nik Wallenda’s thrilling high-wire walk over Niagara Falls last year, you might wonder how he can match that excitement level under the more limited big top of Circus Sarasota.
But the Wallenda family knows how to put thrills into a performance, no matter the venue.
To cap off Circus Sarasota’s action-packed 16th show, Nik Wallenda is joined by his wife, Erendira Vazquez Wallenda, his sister Lijana Wallenda Hernandez and his cousin Blake Wallenda on the wire in the intimate confines of the circus tent.
They walk, jump and ride bicycles across the thin wire, and stage a mini-version of the Wallenda family’s famous pyramid, with Blake and Nik riding bicycles and supporting Lijana on a chair resting on a bar across their shoulders. The slightest wobble she makes trying to sit or stand reminds you of the dangers in the act, even for a routine they have performed countless times.
Nik Wallenda, who is set for a high-wire walk across U.S. 41 on Tuesday, is the star attraction at this year’s show, but he’s hardly the only stand-out performer.
That list begins with strongman and hand-balancer Encho Keryazov, who supports himself on two poles (and sometimes just one), maneuvering his body into seemingly impossible positions for minutes on end without releasing the tension in his muscles. Sweat covers his body by the time he supports his on two stacks of eight bricks atop the poles.
Stefan and Aline of Duo Platchkov do a high-speed juggling act, where, in a rare switch, the man is more of an assistant, as she dextrously bounces balls off two drums and a platform. Aline finishes the act by playing familiar melodies on a special keyboard by juggling the balls at an increasingly rapid rate.
The Jioke Riders open the show standing atop horses running around the ring, while leaping through hoops over bars at ever-increasing speeds.
Natalya and Jorge Pompeyo present a cute array of acrobatic dogs who jump ropes or through rings and over metal stands. Ventriloquist Willer Nicolodi is a skilled artist, but his best material comes when he uses some audience members as his impromptu dummies.
Vladimir and Olga Smirnov return with some new twists in their still mind-boggling quick-change costume routine, in which gets wrapped or briefly covered by fabric or tinsel and emerges in seconds in a new outfit. Even repeated viewings doesn’t diminish the astonishment they create.
You can also be impressed by the Duo Manducas, the comical hand-balancing act performed by Antonio “Toni” Ferreira and Victor August Freitas-Doresis, who generate laughs while demonstrating strength and skill.
And a performance of Circus Sarasota would not be complete without co-founder Dolly Jacobs gracefully floating through the air while supported by straps. This year she’s joined by a new partner, longtime trapeze artist Rafael Palacios, who looks as thrilled as the audience to be in on the act.
Paul Binder, founder of the Big Apple Circus, serves as friendly Ringmaster, providing a bit of history with each introduction. Over the last 16 years, founders Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs have ensured that Circus Sarasota adds to that history in its own stylish way.