Tuesday, March 10, 2009

UniverSoul Circus: Family Fun with Urban Flavor

As old as I am, I have never been to the circus. Never been with my family, school field trip, babysitting…never. I don’t really know why that is; it could be that I am not a fan of clowns or that Ringling jingle (the one that brings out the clowns) causes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I didn’t quite know how to react when invited to the circus recently. I wanted to say yes, since it came about through blogging and I was extremely appreciative of the opportunity, but wanted to run at the same time. James Harris, CEO and Chief Storyteller and Kristin Parker, Account Manager of Elemental Interactive / ListenShare kept in close and gracious contact with me (unaware of my fear) and with trepidation, I grabbed my friend crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best….Off to my first circus experience….

….And how excited am I that I went? So excited. The UniverSoul Circus is not your typical 3-ring, clowns-squished-in-a-car circus. It has elements of the circus we are familiar with, but with a cultural uniqueness and Urban flavor. According to the website and Cedric Walker, Founder & CEO, “The vision was to explore the various talents other than singing and dancing that black performers had to offer. We had the idea to present something different, to create a show that presented a wide spectrum of black talent to a wide demographic of spectators. To reach deep into our culture and search for what talent and skills lie asleep in the black entertainment experience. We wanted to apply our gathered years of experience in the live appearance industry, to make a difference, to change the industry we lived in, creating growth and new opportunity.”

This year, the UniverSoul Circus turns Sweet16. Headquartered in Atlanta, what began in 1994 at Atlanta’s Turner Field (which was the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium back then) has blown up into a must-go-to family event. The circus travels ten of the twelve months and hits up to thirty markets in the United States. Performances did go on in Johannesburg one year, but they haven’t gotten abroad much more to perform. Representatives for the company, like Cedric Walker and Denise Howard, Director of Talent and Production, however, do travel all over the globe to scout fabulous and unique talent to recruit and/or develop. Did you know that some countries, like China, have actual circus schools? Me neither. But, they do!

The whole production includes about 140 staff members, about 60/60/20 with performers, staff, and home office respectively.

The forty-eight meter tent has a capacity of 2500, but an addition of a big screen reduces the actual number of audience members.

It was really interesting walking around the lot. It’s a mini city with majority of the staff living on site and a small number in hotels. Meals, school for the children, sport activities (with soccer the preferred game) all happen in the back lot.

This year, the show includes 9 plus acts which include the Risley act (woman juggling tables and giant vases with their feet), China Soul Flyers Trapeze act, Casic Horse rountine (a Russian act, but performed by West African riders),

The Wheel of Death that has two men on a moving pendulum,

Two young contortionists

Caribbean/Trinidadian dancing and limbo

Human jugglers

And several dance acts, choreographed by Christopher Flournoy,

comedic interjections and the latest Hip Hop music keeps the crowd alive and jumping.

All in all, the evening was amazing. Not only were the top UniverSoul people present and mingling, they seemed so genuine and extremely hospitable. Mrs. & Mr. Cedric Walker were out and about, conversing with the audience, and I thought it was nice and Mrs. Walker remembered meeting me upon a later introduction. Astuteness is unfortunately rare and I found it very nice. Pat Murphy, Executive director was lovely and approachable. And, Ben Johnson, Director of Operations, checked on T & I and the other bloggers several times during the performance and even took a moment to bring T a wet and dry cloth when realizing she was wearing her funnel cake sugar. (Chivalry is not dead, gentleman….bring it and girls will swoon.) I had so much fun listening to the music I love, seeing families together and smiling, and witnessing remarkable, jaw dropping performances. I am hooked and can’t wait to go back next year.
(They're in Raleigh the rest of this week, then Richmond. Check out their calendar to see where else they will be headed at this point of the tour.)


connie said...

I wish I could have gone and taken the boys!! we did the other one, and I was very disappointed!! thanks for giving me the heads up for next year!!

JHamer said...

I went to see this circus tonight, for the second year in a row, and as always they delivered. But Tony Tone was there.