By Linda Armstrong
Black Circus Going Strong In 14th Year
The UniverSoul Circus is back in New York and it’s in Brooklyn playing at its usually location at Prospect Parks Wollman Rink at Ocean Avenue and Parkside. This show is so much fun and it is so appropriate for the entire family. There are times that you will laugh, be astonished and simply find yourself completed engulfed in the audience participation moments. When you think of going to the circus do you associate doing things like the “Hookie Pookie” or “If You’re Happy And You Know It…?” Well, at UniverSoul Circus you participate with the entertainment about as much as you watch the talented performers.
This circus has wonderful music and it always distinguishes itself as being the only Black owned circus. A circus which is now celebrating 14 years. I remember it from its first year and remember thinking I didn’t know this is what circus could be like. I remember thinking this is absolutely fantastic and it’s a circus that truly represents African American people with the marvelous Ol’ School and New School music, the entertaining clown like Onionhead, who by the way is still with this show and the acts that simply grab your attention and maintain it.
Family, love, support, praising the Lord and just having a good time are all definitely parts of the UniverSoul Circus experience. And this circus manages to perfectly blend astounding circus acts with fabulous moments of audience participation. It takes what one may look at as the simplest of children’s game and songs and makes it an experience to remember as everyone gets to perform it together. This circus obviously feels that making the circus experience more valuable to families means giving parents and children the chance to have fun doing the same things, whether its putting your arms up to pass around gigantic beach balls or joining in a fun call-and-response with Ringmaster Tony Tone, who leads the audience with the words, “When I say Big Top, You Say Circus.” As he says the words the audience is completely into repeating it with the same tone and length as Tony Tone presents it. This is so much a part of the circus whenever I hear it’s coming back to town and
arrangements are made for tickets, I say to my little one, “When I say Big Top you say Circus,” and we just have fun doing before we even enter the show.
The show this year has exciting acts including acrobats, flyers, daredevils, quick-change artists, and a contortionist. A young lady performs on a large ring-flying, flipping and swinging and is a delight to behold. This is a circus where you can get “your scream on” as the audience competes to see which side of the tent can scream the loudest. The tent fills with Caribbean beats as the Caribbean Experience comes out and has dancers, stilt walkers and limbo dancers. “Send in the clowns” is something that UniverSoul does very well, as Onionhead takes the floor with Country and Lucky. Though Country and Lucky are much more than clowns, they are also versatile, talented Hip Hop dancers and acrobats. A quick-change act will leave you not wanting to blink. But whether you blink or not, you still won’t be able to figure out how a beautiful woman is suddenly wearing a totally different outfits within a matter of moments and simply following a curtain partly covering her and being shaken. This act is Soul Elusions.
Each year I look forward to the next part of the show, which is the Soul Train Line. It’s such a wonderful chance for adult audience members to go to the ring and shake their groove thing. This circus is more fun than you will experience at most. Where else do they pass around a huge beach ball that the audience gets to hits from section to section.
Everyone was enthralled watching Wheel of Death Soul Circus Daredevils-Jose and Henry-perform as they ran inside of large, steel wheels and ran and jumped on the outside of the wheels. This circus showcases Chinese acrobats, Ricardo-the Contortionist from Havana Cuba, motorcycle riding daredevils and the UniverSoul Elephants. A disappearing act features tigers.
UniverSoul will play in Brooklyn through May 6 and then it will be playing for one week in the Bronx and Queens. To find out more information go to UniverSoul’s website.