Circus Sarasota takes the show to assisted living facilities

SARASOTA – Circus Sarasota is now nearing the end of their winter program, with their final show this Friday night. But even after the tent goes dark, the show goes on, because those performances are only the tip of the iceberg.

Circus Sarasota continues its service to the community all year long, and that includes their outreach program “Laughter Unlimited.” Five days a week, specially trained clowns and other Circus Sarasota performers go into nursing homes, assisted living homes, and facilities that serve people with disabilities.

There, they not only make the residents laugh, but they inspire them to use their abilities and their talents to the maximum.

The Laughter Unlimited team got a royal welcome at the United Cerebral Palsy Center in Bradenton this week. “We don’t just come in and put on a show and present a performance, our clients are vested in the program because we trust them and they trust us,” says performer Chuck Sidlow.

Laughter Unlimited visits there twice a month. This is one of their many stops. Every week, they hit two facilities a day, spreading joy and teaching life skills, like better communication. “Most of the Laughter Unlimited programs are dealing in the senior community with Alzheimer dementia independent living, as well as assisted living for our aging folks. First the hearing goes, then the speech, so communication is very, very important.”

Clients don’t just sit back and watch, they’re a part of the show. They sing, they make music, they perform circus tricks. They’ve been to see Circus Sarasota, and they pretend to be Nik Wallenda.

You can see the applause they get means a lot to them. “Our wonderful friends here at UCP get a wonderful sense of accomplishment and a sense of empowerment,” says performer Billy Bob.

The staff at UCP says Laughter Unlimited makes a major difference in the lives they touch there. “Their main focus is to help the individual find their talent and their desires and use that to develop a sense of humor and just have a great time,” says Gail Lesko.

CIRCUS REVIEW: Nik Wallenda keeps Circus Sarasota flying high

By Jay Handelman, Herald-Tribune
/ Sunday, January 27, 2013

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.

Nik Wallenda, on left, with Erendira Vazquez Wallenda and Blake Wallenda perform during Circus Sarasota's opening night. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)Nik Wallenda, on left, with Erendira Vazquez Wallenda and Blake Wallenda perform during Circus Sarasota’s opening night. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

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.

See a gallery of images from the 16th Circus Sarasota opening night

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.

The incredible Encho Keryazov strongman and hand-balancer during Circus Sarasota's opening night. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)The incredible Encho Keryazov strongman and hand-balancer during Circus Sarasota’s opening night. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

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.

Aline of the Duo Platchkov juggling act plays music by bouncing balls on a special keyboard in Circus Sarasota. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)Aline of the Duo Platchkov juggling act plays music by bouncing balls on a special keyboard in Circus Sarasota. (Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

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.

Acrobatic antics of Antonio Toni Ferreira and his circus counterpart, Victor Augusto Freitas-Doresis of Duo Manducas, (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender.)Acrobatic antics of Antonio Toni Ferreira and his circus counterpart, Victor Augusto Freitas-Doresis of Duo Manducas, (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender.)

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.

REVIEW: The Uniquely Sarasotan Cirque des Voix

By Gayle Williams, Herald-Tribune / Saturday, February 26, 2011

On many occasions I am grateful for the astonishing good fortune to live in Sarasota, but none more so than when I was brought to tears of joy witnessing the  “Queen of the Air” and international circus legend Dolly Jacobs flying near the peak of the big top to the luscious music of Ennio Morricone performed by live orchestra and chorus.  What could be more uniquely Sarasotan than a celebration of the musical arts and circus arts together?

Aerialist Dolly Jacobs performing at Circus Sarasota

A roar of applause and cheers is due to impresarios Joe Caulkins of Key Chorale and Pedro Reis of Circus Sarasota for creating this wonderful experience to share with us.  This was not simply a concert taking place in a tent with some circus acts in front of the orchestra and chorus.  Rather, we saw the Maestro transformed to Ringmaster and programmed music which perfectly meshed with the nature of each circus act.

Caulkins, delivering his lines with classic circus inflection, either had good coaching or is a natural who seemed to relish this new role.  From the first set up featuring clowns Chuck Sidlow and Karen Bell fishing for “O For-TUNA” segueing into Carl Orff’s memorable opening to “Carmina Burana,” to the driving force of Karl Jenkins’ “Dies Irae,” perfectly portraying the Moroccan Connection’s acrobatic muscle in the music, this was a neatly blended new art form.

To be sure, there were times when the act truly did distract from the music, as with the Rolla Bolla act by Axel Perez where bursts of applause and the rapt attention required to enjoy this balancing act, allowed us to largely ignore the musical challenges the chorus was hurdling in Eric Whitacre’s engaging “Little Man in a Hurry.”

The program included several works where the chorus and orchestra did not have to share the spotlight and in these the Key Chorale acquitted itself well.  Perhaps it was the acoustics of the tent that made it difficult to follow the sung text in Charles Ives’ “Circus Band” and in most of the pieces, but the general sound, blend and pitch of the ensemble made for an enjoyable experience.  OF course, the musicians of the orchestra and accompanying pianists Judy Richey, Genevieve Beauchamp, and Nancy Yost Olson were superb as well.

The Sarasota Young Voices were featured in a number of the selections and they excelled in their own spotlight with the atmospheric music of Karl Jenkins’ “The Snow of Yesterday,” even outshining Allesandro Wallenda’s juggling act with their charming way in “La Lluvia” by Stephen Hatfield.

If the aerial beauty of Dolly Jacobs made us cry, then the jaw-dropping contortions of Ricardo Sosa paired with Karl Jenkins’ deeply moving “Pie Jesu” left us speechless.  If you had to miss one of these two performances this year, then buy your tickets well in advance for what we hope will be an annual event of this remarkable new partnership.


A small gallery

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Circus Sarasota’s 2013 Big Top Performances

Circus Sarasota invites you to embark on a journey of discovery and thrills as we present Nik Wallenda – His Journey Continues. Starring, Nik Wallenda – daredevil wire- walker and the only person in the world to cross directly over the precipice of Niagara Falls – this circus engagement promises hire wire excitement and daredevilry from Wallenda and his family  in addition to other jaw-dropping performances, from internationally acclaimed circus artists, and guarantees an all-around, spectacular circus experience. Other performers featured in the 2013 Circus Sarasota Big Top performances include:  Encho, an incredible hand balance act who made his American Debut last year in Sarasota and is back by popular demand, the aerial artistry of Co-Founder Dolly Jacobs who inspires with grace and beauty, the hilarious acrobatic antics of Duo Manduca, the mystery and illusion of Quick Change artists Vladimir and Olga Smirnov, interactive VentriliquistWillerNicolodi who will have audiences in stitches, the precise and skillful juggling of Duo Platchkov  …and more…all led by Ringmaster Extraordinaire Paul Binder of The Big Apple Circus.  The Show runs from Friday, January 25 through Friday, February 15, 2013, at the corner of Tuttle Avenue and 12th Street, under the Circus Sarasota Big Top. Tickets start as low as $10 and multiple discount opportunities are available. For more information regarding show times or to purchase tickets call (941) 355-9805 or visit

Committed to raising the perception of the circus as the valuable art form it represents, Circus Sarasota is much more than a circus.  We direct approximately 80% of ticket revenue to help support our community outreach programs that serve children, the elderly and those in care facilities.  Circus Sarasota is growing and serving more people each year. The year-round outreach programs Laughter Unlimited, Big Top Education and Sailor Circus contribute important outcomes in our community.  It remains equally important to Circus Sarasota to preserve Sarasota’s unique circus legacy….So join us at one of our performances or classes to experience the living, breathing circus and help us to give back to the community through the circus arts!

See below to read more about the incredible artists featured at Circus Sarasota’s 2013 Big Top Performances!

Ringmaster Paul Binder

Charismatic Showman and Ringmaster!

Booming voice, broad shoulders and grand stature. A commanding performer!

It requires intense passion, expertise and charisma in order to capture the attention of the audience and lead them on a magical circus journey of epic proportions… And Ringmaster Paul Binder is just the showman for the job! From stage manager to greats such as Julia Child and Merv Griffin, to expert juggler, clown, co-founder of the Big Apple Circus, gifted performer and seasoned Ringmaster, this impresario certainly knows what it takes to run the show.

Beginning his circus career later in life, as a part of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, he soon mastered the art of juggling and headed off on a two-man, European performance adventure. His street-juggling journey took him to many cities from London to Istanbul with an extended stay in Paris. It was there that the opportunity to perform in a European circus sparked his intense passion for intimate-style showmanship, and brought him back to the United States with a burning desire to establish an American, one-ring circus.

“I think that circus serves a great cultural purpose. Circus is a means of ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Binder.With dedication and a dream, Paul Binder soon became co-founder of the Big Apple Circus – a nonprofit, which has been thrilling audiences in New York City since 1977 – and also acted as the artistic director and Ringmaster from its inception until his retirement from the Big Apple ring in 2009.  Paul Binder is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University – in addition to receiving Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Dartmouth College, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island College and Long Island University – and has also been designated a New York Living Landmark, by the New York Landmark Conservancy, and honored by ABC-TV World News with Charles Gibson as “Person of the Week”.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, let this marvelous Ringmaster work his magic, cultivate the excitement and guide us on a  journey to where the ordinary meets the extraordinary…

Horse Act


Bareback riding, is one of the oldest circus acts of all time.  In fact, a traditional circus performance is normally held in a ring, with a certain specified diameter, specifically adopted to enable a horse rider to retain their balance more easily while standing upright on a cantering horse and performing a series of acrobatic maneuvers.

This type of equestrian acrobatics is a true horse and human stunt-extravaganza that has been wowing circus crowds for hundreds of years. The majestic sight of galloping horses combined with the graceful intertwining of nimble acrobats dates back as far as the late 19th century.

Tonight, get ready to repeat history once again as Gino and ErmesZoppeZamperla – 8th generation master equestrians from Italy – team up with the talented9th generation aerialist and master horsewoman, AmbraZerbini Bauer,  to form an awe-inspiring, equestrian acrobatic trio. Known from coast to coast as The Jiocke Riders, this terrific trifecta will delight spectators with their modern version of a timeless circus classic. Their skillful and precise maneuvering of both man and mustang is nothing short of spectacular!

Russian Bar– Trio Moscow

Be amazed as this skilled group of Russian acrobats present an awe-inspiring Russian Bar routine that soars to new heights. Complete with jaw-dropping tricks, flips and twists this is a highly intricate, acrobatic-aerial performance  that will grab your attention and have you oohing and aahing in no time …

Russian athlete and “Flyer”, Dmitry Volkov  is a talented and competitive acrobatic artist who began his circus career at the age of 25 and later went on to partner with Alexey  and Andrey  to form the unforgettable Trio Moscow.  These three gifted performers, originally part of the Asadullin Troupe – an international, award-winning Russian circus troupe, known for its skillful Russian Bar and Teeterboard performances, and their debut with Ringling Bros. and Barney & Bailey Circus – decided to chart a course for new adventure and organize a troupe that combined their skill, passion and dedication into an acrobatic trio you won’t soon forget. With their high-flying somersaults and daring aerial stunts, Trio Moscow will have your heart flipping with delight.

Now, get ready as they raise the Russian Bar and provide an over-the-top, acrobatic circus spectacle sure to have you filled with excitement and teetering on the edge of your seat!

Dolly Jacobs – Aerial Straps

Superlatives are insufficient to describe Dolly Jacobs the performer… or Dolly Jacobs the person. Watching her soar above the ring is truly watching poetry in motion; and seeing her smile is like viewing a brilliant sunrise. In both instances, you know that you’re in the presence of an extraordinary individual.
Dolly, acclaimed as one of the world’s premier aerialists, was destined from childhood to become a circus celebrity. Her mother, Jean, was a model, a magazine cover girl… and a circus performer. Dolly’s renowned father, Lou Jacobs, was one of the most revered clowns of all time. Born in Sarasota, Dolly trained at Sarasota’s famed Sailor Circus before following her parent’s footsteps, joining the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus corps de ballet. Years of additional training under the direction of Dolly’s Godmother Marjorie Geiger, led to a starring role in The Greatest Show on Earth and also featured status in The Big Apple Circus on the Roman Rings. Her performances earned worldwide commendation when Dolly was awarded two of the most coveted honors at the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo: The Silver Clown and Le Dame du Cirque.

In 1997 Dolly Jacobs and Pedro Reis created Circus Sarasota as a respected showcase for many of the world’s finest artists and entertainers. To everyone’s delight, Dolly continues to dazzle audiences with her spectacular aerial artistry, while earning praise from a grateful community for her leadership role in Circus Sarasota’s outreach programs. She was inducted into Sarasota’s Circus Ring of Fame in 1997, and in 1999 Dolly won “Circus Celebrity” acclamation from The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. So, it is with unparalleled pride that Circus Sarasota presents the personification of circus royalty: our own living legend, Dolly Jacobs.

This year, Dolly’s co-star and aerial partner is the talented Rafael Palacios. Born in beautiful Sarasota, to third generation trapeze artists, Rafael began his aerial training at the toddling age of two. In just a few short years he began performing with his parents in the world-famous city of Las Vegas and, at five-years-old,  he earned the title, “Youngest Trapeze Artist in a Public Performance.” Rafael’s aerial journey continued as he took flight for audiences all around the globe. He has performed for greats like Pope John Paul II, Prince Rainier, Princess Stephanie and even earned the coveted,  “Clown Award” from the Cirque d’ Monte Carlo, for the lifetime achievement as a trapeze artist. He and his family were also inducted into Sarasota’s Circus Ring of Fame. In addition to flying, Rafael also has over three decades of experience as a masterful magician and performed on the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines for 17 years.

Now, we invite you to enjoy the magic… Their magic.

Just lift your eyes for a spectacular sight, as our very own star-performer and her skilled collaborator take flight to deliver a divine performance of ethereal dexterity, high above the center ring!

Ventriloquist – (Giuseppe) WillerNicolodi

Get ready for a barrel of laughs as this world-renowned, comedic ventriloquist takes you on a journey of jokes that will keep you wondering, “who said that”…

The performing art of ventriloquism – originally used in antiquity by oracles and priests – is  a difficult technique in which the performer projects his voice, so that it appears to emanate from another person or object. WillerNicolodi is no stranger to this art form and has been wowing audiences for years with his seemingly effortless talent of lip-locked comedy.

Coming from a  family of seven generations of circus and live performance artists, it’s no surprise that WillerNicolodi is a famous performer himself.  Born in 1959 in Valladolid, Spain, he began his artistic career at the age of ten as an acrobat in the Circus Knie in Switzerland.  He later went on to perform in many famous European Circuses, as a trio with his brothers, and gain numerous international awards.

In 1998 Nicolodi gave up acrobatics and embraced his passion for ventriloquism. He quickly became a crowd favorite and is known around the globe for his legendary “close-lipped” comedy. His artistry has been entertaining audiences for over a decade and has even lead him to perform on board Star Cruises Superstar Libra in 2011.

We encourage you to loosen your lips and get prepared to crack a smile as we welcome master ventriloquist, WillerNicolodi and his puppet…They’ll have you roaring with laughter!


Hand BalanceEncho Keryazov

Back by popular demand, to perform under the Circus Sarasota Big Top for his second consecutive year, is none other than the chiseled strongman and hand -balancer extraordinaire, Encho Keryazov!

Born in 1973, in the Republic of Bulgaria, Encho knew at an early age that he wanted to become an acrobat and that nothing could stand in his way. At just 6 years old he began training and although he wasn’t originally considered to have the proper physique, they agreed to train him because of his overwhelming passion…

Take one look and you’ll see that his sculpted, muscular physique has certainly caught up to match his burning desire and allows him to perform feats of strength and agility that are praised and recognized all around the world. In addition to winning multiple international awards – including the prized Silver Clown Award – Encho has also performed for greats like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even the Royal Family of Monaco. He is also a highly celebrated Bulgarian athlete and was recently given the title of “Honored Citizen” by the city of Yambol in southeastern Bulgaria.

It is with great pleasure that we once again bring you the unparalleled hand-balancing artist and amazing entertainer, Encho Keryazov. Even with this second look, you will be awed as you stare at his precision and super-human combination of flexibility, strength and dexterity… It will leave you both amazed and bewildered!

Juggling Duo Platchkov

Juggling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment known to man and even dates back as far as Egyptian civilization where women tossing spherical objects were depicted on the walls of a tomb. This ancient art form has come a long way since its inception and now requires a even greater amount of dexterity, coordination and concentration. From rings and plates to knives and swords, juggling has taken on many new and different props that continue to captivate audiences throughout the world and keep them coming back for more!

Stefan and Aline of Duo Platchkov have upped the ante – or should we say juggling paraphernalia,  extreme coordination and unwavering concentration skills – once again…

With a dazzling light display, perfect choreography and rhythmically timed music, this dynamic duo will perform three different acts that include juggling everything from a gigantic metal cube to bats, balls, rings and more! The adrenaline pumping action doesn’t stop there but is raised once again as they perform these feats while dancing, drumming and even climbing a ladder.And you thought juggling popcorn, soda and cotton candy was difficult… Wait until you see this!

Pompeyo Dog Act

Pompeyo Family and Their Canine Aristocrats

Not all aristocrats have hereditary nobility.

Did you ever think that one of the dogs sitting in your local animal shelter could be a circus star? Well, Jorge and Natalya Pompeyo did… This dynamic duo has rescued quite a few four-legged friends and used their expert skills to train them for a spectacular canine extravaganza that is packed full of tail-wagging excitement!

Born in Costa Rica, Jorge is a 4th generation circus performer who has trained all different types of critters including horses, camels, elephants and even tigers! Natalya, his lovely wife and former Russian gymnast and aerial acrobat, has also performed all around the world since the age of 15. This terrific team met and married while touring with the circus and have been performing together for over 10 years throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

These top-notch trainers and their tireless pooches will now take center stage and quickly have you barking for more as they show off their talents and tricks. They will do aerial somersaults, leap through rings, climb ladders, jump rope and wag their way into your heart!

Quick Change – Smirnovs Vladimir and Olga Smirnov

Circus Sarasota has decided to change things up again… Quick-change that is!

The masterful act in which a performer or magician changes quickly within seconds from one costume into another right in front of your eyes!

Who better to take on this wardrobe witchcraft than the magical masters of quick-change, husband and wife team, Vladimir and Olga Smirnov. Born in Kharkov, Ukraine to an actor, comedian and circus producing father and a magician mother, Vladimir had performing in his blood. He began training at the early age of 6 and studied many disciplines such as dance, acrobatics, juggling, perch pole and most importantly, magic! His lovely wife Olga was born in Barnaul, Russia and is also a second generation, professional circus performer. At the age of 10 she began practicing gymnastics, low-wire and acrobatics. Her circus career blossomed and she later met her husband  while working side-by-side in the Russian State Circus company.

This clothes-horse couple has been performing the art of quick-change together since 1993. The Russian style tradition of this act is more than magical, it is a combination of color, dance, music and instantaneous costume changes that come together in a graceful, elegant presentation both marvelous and mystifying. You will see it but you might not believe it. They are quick… So, watch closely and don’t blink an eye or you might miss it!

Comedy Acrobatics“Duo Manducas”

Ha, ha! Clap, clap! Ha, clap, ha, clap…You won’t know whether to laugh or applaud as these hand-stand balancing acrobats stun you with displays of super-powered physical ability combined with slap-stick humor and comedic ingenuity.

An audience favorite at many great circuses throughout Europe, Antonio “Toni” Ferreira and his circus counterpart, Victor Augusto Freitas-Doresis, of Duo Manducas, have performed at Circus Krone, Circus Knie, Circus Roncalli, Cirque du Soleil and now, Circus Sarasota. This talented team has also appeared at the famed Moulin Rouge and given numerous royal commanded performances. Their lengthy list of awards includes top prizes from the Verona Circus Festival, the Paris Circus Festival, the Berlin Circus Festival and the Budapest Circus Festival. Duo Manducas has also been honored with the coveted Silver Clown award from the 15th Annual Monte Carlo International Circus Festival.

Now, direct to you from Portugal, comes an  incredible circus twosome that mixes the Vaudeville-type comedy of Charlie Chaplin with some of the most challenging acrobatic, hand-to-hand-stand feats of human strength for a combination that will have you chuckling and cheering for more!


World-renowned high wire artist, Nik Wallenda, will return to his hometown to star in the 2013 winter production of Circus Sarasota.  The show, named in his honor, is entitled: “Nik Wallenda:  His Journey Continues.…”  Performances of Circus Sarasota begin on Friday, January 25, and continue through Friday, February 15, 2013. Tickets for Circus Sarasota are on sale now at and by phone at (941) 355-9805.

This past summer, on June 15, 2012, Wallenda joined the ranks of legendary daredevils when he became the first person ever to walk across the roaring Niagara Falls on a two-inch steel wire. The historic event was broadcast live by ABC to an audience reaching 13.3 million Americans, garnering the highest rating for a non-sports broadcast of any network in six years.

The heart-pounding event took two years of strategic planning which included geological surveys, engineering feats and political lobbying of U.S. and Canadian officials to change laws in both countries that, for the past 116 years, banned daredevil stunts at Niagara Falls.

Prior to the ban, other wire walkers had crossed the Niagara River including one who lost his life, but no one until Nik Wallenda had ever attempted to cross Horseshoe Falls, 200 feet up and 1550 feet across, where the raging waters rush downward at more than 600,000 gallons per second.

After battling wind swells and dangerously thick mist, Wallenda completed his walk in just 25 minutes during which viewers could hear his repetition of prayers. In one truly electrifying moment as he approached the Canadian side on the wire he paused, and then bowed to the crowd on bended knee raising a victory fist to acknowledge over 120,000 cheering fans who had waited for him in the rain. Wallenda then sprinted to safe ground and after embracing his wife and family, he was approached by Canadian customs agents who asked him for his passport.

“What is the purpose of your trip sir?” the agent asked. “To inspire people around the world to follow their dreams and never give up,” Wallenda said, turning over the passport he carried with him in a waterproof bag.

Nik Wallenda is the seventh generation of Great Wallendas who trace their roots back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1780. For Nik, every walk is an expression of honor to his great grandfather, the legendary Karl Wallenda who brought the Wallendas to America for The Greatest Show on Earth. During the depression era, his crowning achievement was the seven-person chair pyramid: four men standing on a wire as two pairs with two more men standing on their shoulder bars holding a woman sitting, then standing on a chair at the top of the pyramid.  The Wallendas successfully performed it for decades until January 30, 1962, when, in Detroit, the front man on the wire faltered and three men fell to the ground, two to their deaths. Karl Wallenda’s son was paralyzed.

Karl continued performing “Sky Walks,” walking between buildings and across stadiums, including Busch, Veterans, JFK, 3 Rivers Stadiums and the Astrodome, among others. His most famous walk was a 1200-foot long trek across the Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia, where 30,000 people watched as the 65-year-old legend performed two separate headstands at a height of over 700 feet in the air.

Sadly, during a high wire walk in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in March 1978, Karl Wallenda, age 73, fell to his death. It was not because of his age, capabilities, or the wind that day, but because of bad rigging, a reason Nik Wallenda and his father always oversee every inch of rigging themselves.

Nik Wallenda was “performing” on a high wire before he was born; his mother, Delilah Wallenda, was still walking the high wire six months pregnant with him. Nik’s official first performance was in 1981 at age 2 as a tiny clown carried around in a pillow case. He also began walking the wire that same year but was not permitted to perform professionally on a high wire until age 13. In 2001, he set his first world record in Kurashiki, Japan for the 4 layer 8 person pyramid on a high wire.

On June 4, 2011, Nik Wallenda successfully completed the high wire walk in San Juan that his grandfather had never completed — a 135-foot-long high-wire crossing between the two towers of the ten-story Condado Plaza Hotel. Stunning the crowd, Wallenda’s mother, Delilah, joined him on the high wire: mother and son starting at opposite ends. When Delilah reached the

middle of the wire, roughly the spot from which Karl had fallen, she sat down on the wire and Nik stepped over her before the two continued to opposite ends of the wire. Before finishing, Nik knelt down on the wire and blew a kiss in honor of his great-grandfather’s memory.

After the feat, Wallenda said he was “not scared at all,” but admitted that the circumstances of Karl’s death had haunted him for years. “To be able to walk in his exact footsteps is an extremely huge honor, and I did this for him as much as I did it for my family to get some closure.” Perhaps not for everyone. Immediately after the Niagara Falls high wire walk, Nik phoned his grandmother, Karl Wallenda’s daughter, who had told him she was too frightened to watch.

The Niagara Falls walk marks Nik Wallenda’s seventh world record, including one for the highest and longest bike ride on a wire which he performed from Newark, N.J. live on NBC’s Today Show, October 15, 2008.

By his side throughout is the beautiful Erendira, the high energy circus performer he married after his 1999 proposal from the high wire, on bended knee in front of 18,000 in Montreal, Canada. Erendira is also circus royalty. On her mother’s side, she is the eighth generation of the Ashtons of Australia, the third oldest circus family in the world. On her father’s side, she is the seventh generation of the Vazquez trapeze artists from Mexico, known worldwide as the first to successfully complete the quadruple somersault.

Nik and Erendira have three children: Yanni, Amadaos and Evita who, remarkably, have DNA passed down from 25 generations of circus performers.

Up next, Nik Wallenda is in the advanced planning stages of a death-defying wire walk across the Grand Canyon (with permits already secured). In the meantime, he continues performing daredevil stunts around the world, without any safety devices, on the high wire, the “wheel of death,” hanging by his jaw from a helicopter and more.  Of course, residents and visitors throughout southwest Florida this winter will have the opportunity to see Nik perform live and in-person in his hometown… at Circus Sarasota.

Experience Circus Sarasota like never before

SARASOTA, FL — Growing… Interacting… Elevating… The excitement is palpable at Circus Sarasota as they begin a new circus season and continue to further their mission of expanding the circus arts, engaging the community and taking the circus experience to a whole new level. The 2012-2013 circus season not only promises to be the entertainment extravaganza that Circus Sarasota – and the legendary, youth circus, Sailor Circus – is known for, but has also grown to include hands on training classes where participants dive inside the belly of the circus arts for a physically charged experience of athleticism and adventure. The combination provides the circus town of Sarasota and Southwest Florida with an all-encompassing circus revelry that raises the bar of entertainment and interaction.

Pedro Reis, co-founder and producer of Circus Sarasota, explains, “We live in a place that is alive with circus history, passion and performance. What better way to spark the excitement and appreciation for the circus arts than to engage our community through exciting performances while also offering an opportunity to physically experience the training that takes place behind the magic of the big top.”

The season has already kicked off with the introduction of two new circus-style fitness classes sure to inspire your inner acrobat. Aerial Gym, a combination of yoga and other muscle engaging exercises, is a program designed for adults (ages 16+), of all fitness levels, that incorporates the use of unique circus arts techniques with aerial circus hoops to help increase strength, flexibility, balance and body awareness. Classes are offered on Mondays from 7:15 to 8:30 a.m., Wednesday’s from 9:30 to 11:00 A.M., Fridays from 8:30 to 10:00 A.M. and Sundays from 3:00 to 4:30 P.M. Cost is $20 for one class or $55 for three. Now through December 31, your first class is only $10. Student discounts are available and reservations are recommended. And, if you have ever dreamt of flying through the air with the greatest of ease, the Flying Trapeze Classes will help you discover your courage and take your fitness goals to new heights. Led by seasoned instructors and world-renowned professionals, the classes are designed for participants (ages 6+) who dare to challenge gravity and swing through the air, trapeze style. Classes are offered most Sundays from 12 to 2 P.M. and Mondays from 9:30 to 11:30 A.M.. Check the website,, for specific dates. Cost is $35 per class or six classes for $175. Registration is required and Sailor Circus Alumni and student discounts are available. All classes take place at the Sailor Circus Arena located at 2075 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota. For more information regarding either class or to register call (941) 556-5480 or email

The excitement doesn’t stop there… Sailor Circus, America’s Oldest Youth Circus, presents “The Greatest “Little” Show on Earth” with the 2012 Holiday Spectacular – The Polar Express. Based on the story of a young boy who boards a magical train headed to the North Pole in search of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, this circus adventure will embark on an extraordinary journey of entertainment that proves the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. The 2012 Sailor Circus Holiday Spectacular – The Polar Express, runs for four holiday-magic-filled days from Thursday, December 27th through Sunday, December 30th at the Sailor Circus Arena located at 2075 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota. The cost is $16 for adults and $12 for children under 12. Tickets are available at the box office or by calling (941) 366-0156. Show times are Thursday, Dec. 27 and Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 P.M., Saturday, Dec. 29 and Sunday, Dec. 30 at 2 P.M. & 7 P.M.

Then to start the New Year, Circus Sarasota invites you to embark on a journey of discovery and thrills as they present Nik Wallenda – His Journey Continues. Starring, Nik Wallenda – daredevil wire- walker and the only person in the world to cross directly over the precipice of Niagara Falls – this circus engagement promises hire wire excitement and daredevilry from Wallenda and his family in addition to other jaw-dropping performances, from internationally acclaimed circus artists, and guarantees an all-around, spectacular circus experience. Other performers featured in the 2013 Circus Sarasota Big Top performances include: Encho, an incredible hand balance act who made his American Debut last year in Sarasota and is back by popular demand, the aerial artistry of Co-Founder Dolly Jacobs who inspires with grace and beauty, the hilarious acrobatic antics of Duo Manduca, the mystery and illusion of Quick Change artists Vladimir and Olga Smirnov, interactive Ventriliquist Willer Nicolodi who will have audiences in stitches, the precise and skillful juggling of Duo Platchkov …and more…all led by Ringmaster Extraordinaire Paul Binder of The Big Apple Circus. The Show runs from Friday, January 25 through Friday, February 15, 2013, at the corner of Tuttle Avenue and 12th Street, under the Circus Sarasota Big Top. Tickets start as low as $10 and multiple discount opportunities are available. For more information regarding show times or to purchase tickets call (941) 355-9805 or visit




Clowns helping teach science in Suncoast schools

SARASOTA, Fla. – How do we get Suncoast students to score better on the FCATs and to retain what they learn about difficult subjects? That’s a question educators grapple with every day. And now an answer has come from a very unexpected source: clowns.

Circus Sarasota clowns Karen Bell and Robin Eurich teach science to Susan Aubel’s 5th graders once a week. She says they take difficult, abstract scientific concepts — kinetic energy, potential energy, balance, force, friction, accreditation — and use hands-on experiments to show students how the concepts work in circus tricks.

Then the students do a test to prove that the principles they’ve been taught by the clowns really work.

The clowns may look funny, but they have advanced degrees and are specially trained to teach science in accordance to state and FCAT standards, and they must stick to the teacher’s lesson plan.

But they have unique circus teaching tools at their disposal. “We’ve got in the circus the teeter board act, the trapeze and juggling, and the human cannonball…we have all these wonderful vehicles for explaining the principles of physics in a way that children can remember,” says Eurich.

5th grader Veronica Bekhit will vouch for that. “We’re learning force and gravity…we’re having fun at the same time and we start remembering it when we take the test.”

And test results back her up. “The pre-test – the knowledge the kids have — is 53%. The post-test was 97% knowledge base; so a pretty big significant difference,” says Bell.

The egg trick helps 5th grader Brandon Radu remember his physics lesson. “Friction and the potential energy that the egg has when it drops into the cup.”

As Susan Aubel watches the delight on the faces of her students as they see science in action, she says she’s so glad she brought the two clowns into her classroom. “It was just a perfect fit, because it’s like taking the magic out of the circus and putting it into physicals and making it alive and real.”

The Big Top Education Clowns go into elementary and middle schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties to teach science and language arts. It’s part of Circus Sarasota’s Community Outreach Program.

Hero’s Welcome Planned For Nik Wallenda…The Man Who Walked Into History


Sarasota, Florida; October 15, 2012 — Nik Wallenda, illustrious high-wire artist and Sarasota’s hometown superstar, will be given a hero’s welcome when he steps-off a JetBlue flight at the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport on Friday morning, October 19th at 10:45 AM. The public is invited to the airport to welcome Wallenda as he returns to Sarasota for the first time since his amazing walk on a silver strand suspended above the precipice of Niagara Falls earlier this summer. The airport celebration will include a Welcome by Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell, a Proclamation from Sarasota County Commission Chair Christine Robinson and Sailor Circus youth cheering their idol on! Pedro Reis, co-founder and CEO of Circus Sarasota, will also be at the airport to welcome his friend, and reveal that Wallenda will be starring in the 2013 edition of Circus Sarasota.

The welcome reception will take place in the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport Lower Level adjacent to the waterfall between the departure/ticketing area and baggage claim. Free parking courtesy of the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport has been arranged for those attending the event to celebrate the hometown hero’s arrival to Sarasota!

“Over the weeks leading up to his walk above The Falls, Nik Wallenda shared the spotlight with his hometown; and the world took note,” comments Pedro Reis. Following the Niagara Falls feat, Nik and his family have been on-the-road throughout the summer performing in such venues as the Tropicana Resort in Atlantic City. Reis concludes, “When we welcome him home to Sarasota, we are letting Nik know how proud he has made us, and how proud we are of him! I hope that we will have a huge and enthusiastic crowd to meet Nik at the airport this Friday morning.”

2012 Circus Sarasota Winter Performance of Bello Mania Herald Tribune Review

2012 Circus Sarasota Winter Performance of Bello Mania Sarasota Magazine Review