Thrills and laughs in Circus Sarasota’s intimate ‘Fearless’

For nearly two decades, Circus Sarasota keeps finding surprises for its annual winter shows. And this year’s title production “Fearless” suits a show that seems to prove there are countless people around the world who live for the thrill of performing dangerous stunts for audiences.

From the Fabulous Wallendas walking three people high across a wire, to a Romanian Russian barre act, there are plenty of thrills to be found, each one boisterously introduced by ringmaster Joseph Dominick Bauer Jr.

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Fearless Circus Sarasota 2015

Circus Sarasota is back with this year’s edition, titled Fearless, featuring The Flying Wallendas starring Nik Wallenda, “King of the High Wire.” Circus Sarasota, headed by Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs, re-incorporated as Circus Arts Conservatory two years ago, taking several other organizations and programs under its umbrella, including PAL Circus. Now, Circus Arts Conservatory offers expanded educational programs as well as various performances throughout the year, but the yearly edition of Circus Sarasota remains its center piece. This year they have chosen a new location, Nathan Benderson Park, adjacent to the new University Town Center Mall.

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Circus Sarasota

Perhaps it’s the new location (Nathan Benderson Park), perhaps it’s the Wallenda family troupe featuring as headliners, or perhaps it’s just the overall lineup—at any rate, this year’s production of Circus Sarasota seemed to generate more energy from a packed crowd the night I saw it than usual.

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The 2014 Sahib Shrine Circus Is Here For One Spectacular Weekend!

SARASOTA, FL – For one weekend only, The Circus Arts Conservatory proudly presents the 2014 Sahib Shrine Circus. On Friday, October 3rd and Saturday, October 4th the Sailor Circus Arena, located at 2075 Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota, will be home to three performances that are guaranteed to entertain circus fans of all ages. This year, the Shrine Circus has double the amount of performing acts to bring Sarasota their biggest show yet. It’s filled with twice as much excitement, twice as many thrilling stunts and incredible human feats, and much, much more!

The action-packed show kicks off with a celebrated Ringmaster who is a 17th daredevil star of the Bauer’s Circus Maximus, Joseph Bauer, Jr. He will also join the dynamic performance line-up with his attention-grabbing Wheel of Destiny too! Other incredible acts will be performed by Noe España and his family, including mind-blowing contortion from daughter, Noemi, unbelievable head-balancing trapeze from his wife, Vivien, superior Chinese yo-yo from his son, Elan and thrilling motorbike stunts on an incline wire from Noe himself. There will be hilarious clowning from the Sahib Shiners, awe-inspiring aerial acrobatics from our hometown Sailor Circus students, and the fun doesn’t stop there! The nationally-acclaimed Jennifer Walker Herriott will continue the excitement with her talented steeds and amazing exotic animals. Neecha Braun provides tail-wagging entertainment as her prancing pups wag their way into your heart, and there will be masterful Risley balancing and maneuvering from Miles Ashton and George Coronas. Other greats like the fast-moving Elena Tsarkova, will provide astonishing quick change, and juggler-extraordinaire, Vladimir Tsarkov will keep the cheers coming. “It’s going to be a really awesome performance that everyone will enjoy,” promises Pedro Reis, Circus Arts Conservatory Co-Founder and CEO.

In Sahib Shrine Circus tradition, the scheduled shows will kick off with a complimentary performance put on for local school children throughout Bradenton, Sarasota and North Port and then follow with three additional ticketed shows, available for purchase, for the general public. “We are pleased to help a fellow non-profit organization and produce another fantastic circus arts performance for our community,” says Reis. “The Circus Arts Conservatory specializes in producing entertaining and professional circus shows and our presentation of the 2014 Sahib Shrine Circus will be a fun and affordable show for families to enjoy.”

Shows will be Friday, October 3rd $10 for children 12 and under. For more information or to purchase tickets visit or call The Circus Arts Conservatory Box Office at 941-355-9805.

* The Circus Arts Conservatory, Sarasota is home to world-class performances, excellence in training the circus arts, and community based education and humor therapy outreach programs. The organization was born from decades of circus history and today serves as a legacy to those that have set the standards for international circus artistry and athleticism. The Circus Arts Conservatory is a 501(c) 3 non-profit performing arts educational organization, whose extraordinary mission underscores its commitment to sharing the entertainment, education and enrichment of the circus arts.

* It is the mission of Sahib Shriners to encourage and promote fun and fellowship for our Units and Clubs and provide the essential leadership that will guide them to accomplish the same. Our prime focus at all times will be our philanthropic mission to support Shriners Hospitals for Children, a world-class network of specialty hospitals.

Review of the Summer Circus Spectacular 2014 at The Ringling; presented by The Circus Arts Conservatory of Sarasota

“Step right up, folks, to the “Greatest Show on Earth!”  What could be more entertaining on the very grounds of the Ringling estate itself than the Summer Circus Spectacular 2014.  Uniquely showcased in the Historic Asolo Theater, this production incorporates all the elements of the circus arts; a stunning ringmistress, astonishing displays of strength and stamina by a world-class hand-balancing act, a trained Chihuahua, an extraordinary juggling act, a world-famous aerialist soaring high overhead, amazing split-second costume change artists, and of course, a goofy but hilarious clown.  These performers delight and thrill the audience with their spectacular feats, but there is so much more to this story, folks.

CIRCUS REVIEW: Circus Sarasota turns up the heat for summer show

The air conditioning is working just fine but The Ringling’s Historic Asolo Theater is heating up with several of the acts featured in this year’s Summer Circus Spectacular. The temperature starts rising with Vladimir Kim, who spins metal cubes with an easy dexterity, and then gets warmer with the feats of strength demonstrated by hand-balancer Christian Stoinev, before the show erupts in piles of silver glitter with the quick-change costume act of Vladimir and Olga Smirnov.

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Sarasota Heats Up With Excitement For The Summer Circus Spectacular 2014

SARASOTA, FL – It’s a season for excitement as The Circus Arts Conservatory proudly teams up with The Ringling, for their eighth consecutive year, to present the fabulous and affordable Summer Circus Spectacular 2014. The world-class performances take place, every Tuesday through Saturday – from June 17th to August 2nd- inside Sarasota’s Historic Asolo Theater. This one-of-a-kind production has become a celebrated summertime event on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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Sarasota’s unique Sailor Circus Academy offers fertile opportunities for local and regional reporters wishing to cover and present a variety of positive news and feature stories.  Such opportunities are particularly timely as Sailor Circus (America’s longest-running youth circus) celebrates its 65th Anniversary with performances entitled “LEGACY”, from Thursday, March 27 through Saturday, April 5, 2014.

For your consideration, here are several feature story ideas; many more ideas also reside under the Sailor Circus Academy “Big Top” near downtown Sarasota.  We would be delighted to help you develop one of the following stories; or to work with you as you let your creativity run wild.

SIXTY-FIVE YEARS OF SAILOR CIRCUS ALUMNI – Many of the students who appear in Sailor Circus pursue careers in the circus.  Many Sailor Circus alums also have distinguished themselves in other endeavors.  Just a few of the notable Sailor Circus Alumni include former Florida Senator Mike Bennett; former Sarasota Mayor Lou Ann Palmer; Kristy Landers Niedenfur (Miss Tennessee USA, 2014); U.S. Army Captain Chrissy Campbell; and local pediatrician, Dr. Sam Quartermaine.  Many of the Sailor Circus Alumni will be attending a special 65th Anniversary Reception and performance on Saturday, April 5th.  Meet the people who have been the faces of Sailor Circus for generations!

LEGENDARY CIRCUS STARS ARE INSTRUCTORS AT SAILOR CIRCUS ACADEMY – For more than 80 years circus families have been living in Sarasota, contributing to the development and reputation of Sarasota as one of America’s foremost arts communities.  One result of their prominence in our community is that many professional circus performers serve as instructors and coaches at Sailor Circus Academy.  Among the luminaries who teach at Sailor Circus are Dolly Jacobs (“Queen of the Air” and co-founder of The Circus Arts Conservatory); Kathy and Lee Merritt, aerialists known professionally as The Rolls Duo;  and Willie Eddleston, a trapeze artist and aerialist who has coached for 64 years!  Other circus professionals who have worked with Sailor Circus students have included Nik Wallenda, Bello Nock, and La Norma Fox.  Seeing the interaction between the passionate professionals and the eager students is one reason that Sailor Circus has been unique to our community for more than six decades!

THIS YEAR’S SENIOR CLASS – The students in Sailor Circus range in age from 8 to 18 years; and, they represent both Sarasota County and Manatee County.  It is always with mixed emotions that Sailor Circus says “farewell” to its graduating high school seniors.  Among them, this year, are Nick Slimick, a versatile athlete who has been training for 8 years and excels in a variety of circus skills including the flying trapeze; Khera Smith who has been with Sailor Circus since the age of eight and who is, indeed, pursuing a career under The Big Top; and Josiah Bichler, a Sailor Circus Academy unicyclist and juggler who hopes to be an FBI agent or a pilot, and who has been awarded a $54,000 scholarship to Embry Riddle University.  Several members of the senior graduating class are currently training with Nik Wallenda to debut professionally in a Wallenda performance.  Meet the high school students who are graduating; or speak to the younger performers to hear their stories and aspirations.

CHANGE IS COMING TO THE SAILOR CIRCUS ARENA – The blue-and-white striped Sailor Circus Arena is an iconic structure adjacent to the Sarasota High School campus, just south of downtown. The arena’s utility and comfort, however, are hampered by a lack of air conditioning, inadequate dressing rooms, and a scarcity of amenities that the public and performers have come to expect from a performing arts venue.  When The Circus Arts Conservatory (formerly known as Circus Sarasota) took over stewardship of Sailor Circus in 2011, one goal was to embark on a campaign to make the arena more functional and more comfortable.  A capital improvement plan is in the works; and, CEO Pedro Reis and Board Chairman Mitch McKnight (a civil engineer by profession) are eager to talk about their vision for The Sailor Circus Arena.

BE A PERFORMER – The elementary, junior high and high school students at Sailor Circus Academy are learning to juggle, ride unicycles, be a clown, perform on Roman rings, fly on the trapeze and walk on the wire:  talents that often require years of practice and perseverance.  Did YOU ever wonder what it would be like to learn one of those skills?  While we cannot promise that you’ll “fly through the air with the greatest of ease,” we can give you the chance to see and feel what it would be like to be a Sailor Circus pupil and performer.  The experience is guaranteed to give you a new appreciation for the talents and the skills of the students who participate in the Sailor Circus Academy!

VOLUNTEERS! – As a non-profit performing arts organization, The Circus Arts Conservatory and Sailor Circus Academy rely on the help of volunteers who serve as ushers, sell novelties, build props and make costumes. Some of the volunteers are parents of the Sailor Circus students; other volunteers are circus fans who enjoy “the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd;” and, others are professionals whose expertise includes law, accounting, marketing… and performing!  Learn more about the people who, behind the scenes, have helped make Sailor Circus so successful for the past 65 years:  the volunteers!

CURRENT STUDENTS MAKING HISTORY! – Two long-time students of the Sailor Circus — trapeze flyer Jacob Swe and catcher Alec Bryant –have recently made history thanks to their jaw-dropping triple somersault on the flying trapeze.  The two students have caught the triple somersault several times during their trapeze training at Sailor Circus.  When commenting on this record-breaking stunt, 16 year-old, Sarasota High School junior, Jacob Swe said, “I am now considered the youngest person in youth circus history to successfully perform the triple somersault on the flying trapeze. It’s all thanks to Alec Bryant, who is one of the youngest performers to catch the triple, and Mike Redpath at Sailor Circus for coaching me.”

*Photos & Video available upon request


Sarasota, Florida; March 18, 2014   –  Sarasota’s Sailor Circus celebrates its 65th anniversary when the legendary show presents nine performances from Thursday, March 27, through Saturday, April 5, at the Sailor Circus Arena near downtown Sarasota.

President Truman held office; Volkswagen made its American debut. It was 1949, when three pennies would get you a first-class stamp, and seventeen cents would buy a gallon of gas. People sang Gene Autry’s new song, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”; and, they could listen to it at home using the latest high-tech phenomenon: the 45 RPM record.

Here in Sarasota, by 1949 we had earned our “Circus Capital of the World” moniker, having been home to The Greatest Show on Earth® for over two decades; and, our town was already recognized as “an arts community.” Three events in 1949 enhanced that reputation. One was the first public performance by the Sarasota Symphony. A second milestone was the opening of the Sarasota Art Center; and, a third cultural institution took its first breath: Sailor Circus.

Originally part of Sarasota High School’s physical education program, Sailor Circus has evolved over sixty-five years into an internationally-recognized circus arts training program. Boasting thousands of alumni who have distinguished themselves in the trades, the professions, and the arts, Sailor Circus continues to offer a unique curriculum that melds athletics with performing arts, and molds spirited youngsters into disciplined and skilled young adults.

Over the decades it has garnered national acclaim as America’s longest-running youth circus: a legacy of the talented elementary, junior high and high school students who comprise the cast and crew of “The Greatest Little Show on Earth!”

“The public will be treated to a masterful, exceptionally entertaining circus,” comments Pedro Reis, CEO of The Circus Arts Conservatory, the non-profit organization that oversees the Sailor Circus.  “Our students are not just learning circus arts: they are also learning discipline and teamwork while engaging in important confidence-building activities. At the same time, they’re continuing their academic studies and maintaining their grades: a daunting challenge. Their reward?  Applause from the thousands of local residents and visitors who fill each performance to capacity every year.”

Meanwhile, the 100+ students featured in Sailor Circus, from 8 to 18 years of age and representing Sarasota and Manatee Counties, are trained and coached by another group of people unique to the area: the professional circus performers whose families have called Sarasota “home” for decades.  One such individual is Steve Smith, Sailor Circus Academy Director. His 40-year career includes a 10-year stint as Director of the fabled Ringling Clown College; a producer of shows for Walt Disney World and Royal Caribbean Cruises; and, guest director of New York’s Big Apple

Circus.  His academic gravitas is the result of a fine arts degree from Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama.  “Performing is my passion; but, so is teaching,” explains Smith; “and these dedicated young circus entertainers share my appetite for performing. They often train 20 to 30 hours a week, after school and on week-ends, honing their skills on unicycles, learning the art of clowning, flying on the trapeze or walking the high wire.”

This season’s engagement of Sailor Circus, entitled “LEGACY,” reflects the confluence of two celebrations. The 65th Anniversary of Sailor Circus is one such celebration, representing Sarasota’s distinctive eight-decade circus heritage of which The Sailor Circus is a part. The other celebration is the Patterson Foundation’s “Legacy of Valor” Campaign, for which The Circus Arts Conservatory is a partner. As a result, the patriotic red, white and blue Sailor Circus “LEGACY” theme pays tribute to the U.S. Military and to our nation’s veterans.

Tickets for Sailor Circus are available now at the Sailor Circus Box Office (2075 Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota); seats can also be reserved by calling 941-355-9805 or logging-on to  Ticket prices are $16.00, with discounts for children under 12 and for groups.