Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

2020 Circus Sarasota
Circus Arts Conservatory
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of American Son

Dominguez Poodles
Photo Courtesy of Circus Arts Conservatory
It's that time of year: the Ulla Searing Big Top is pitched at Nathan Benderson Park where it can be seen by travelers along I-75, and Circus Arts Conservatory opens the 2020 edition of Circus Sarasota. This year's program is a particularly strong one, featuring mostly new acts to this area, with ringmaster Joseph Dominic Bauer Jr. and Al Calienes performing as Renaldo, Clown Extraordinaire, familiar to hold it all together.

The show opens, as it almost always does, with horses, this time The Alanian Riders, headed up by Lev Gigolaev from North Ossitia-Alania, Russia. Three gorgeous horses are featured, with a chestnut and a white being, for me, the star of the act. Two women riders do stunts to delight the audience. Next up, Get the Shoe, featuring Florian and Christof, a novelty act that mixes juggling and martial arts.

Following that is Renaldo's first spot, with children plucked from the audience passing a spinning plate from one to the other. While this is going on in the audience area, the stagehands set things up for Duo 19, with the art of trapeze hand balancing. Oliver and Cassie perform breathtaking acrobatic moves high above the ring. Dima Shine is next, with flag pole artistry. The act is a mixture of hand balancing and other exciting moves along the side of the flag pole, a suitable finale for the first act.

Act two opens by bringing on the dogs, this time the Dominguez Poodles. Featured are nine poodles of various sizes, one Great Dane mix, two children and their parents. The highlight is when two miniature poodles power the wheel of death with a third walking outside one of the hoops. Next is Emil Faltyny with the balancing ladder. Emil is a major circus star in his native Prague, Czech Republic, and all over eastern Europe. His finale is heart-stopping. Hannah Griffith, from the United States is next on the swinging trapeze. She flies high, high above the center ring performing amazing tricks. At first I thought she was working without a net or safety device, but Pedro Reis, who with wife Dolly Jacobs heads The Circus Arts Conservatory and is extremely safety conscious, makes sure there is a guy wire. Thanks for that, because if a performer misses a trick, I would prefer not to be party to serious injury.

Renaldo's biggest feature is next, with five audience members playing out a silent western movie. Trio Dandy, featuring Johnny Gasser from Switzerland, Yury Kreer from Russia, and Kirill Ivanov, also from Russia, arrives just in time for a big finale with the Russian barre. Gasser, who is the flyer is head and shoulders the best I've ever seen, executing double somersaults all over the place, and a triple. Their finale is a triple with a half twist. Part of the reason they get the final spot is that their presentation is just a little nicer than any of the other acts, with a special star quality.

There is a final parade of all the acts, so the audience can show their appreciation one more time, and then the performers appear in the adjoining tent for autographs.

Circus Arts Conservatory's 2020 Circus Sarasota runs through March 1, 2020, at Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota FL. For more information, visit