High-wire daredevil Erendira (Vasquez) Wallenda is a seventh-generation circus performer on her aerialist father Vinicio Vasquez’s side, and an eighth-generation performer on her acrobat mother Golda (Ashton) Vasquez’s side.
She was 3 weeks old when she was introduced to her future husband and “King of the High Wire,” Nikolas “Nik” Wallenda.
Her parents, the Flying Vasquez, would often perform with Nik Wallenda’s parents, The Flying Wallendas. The couple’s grandparents and great-grandparents also performed together.
“It was just meant to be!” she says.
These days, Erendira and Nik Wallenda continue the family legacy as husband-and-wife performers. They’ll walk the wire together in this season’s Circus Sarasota, “Nik Wallenda — His Journey Continues,” at the Big Top.
Erendira Wallenda, now 31, grew up in a small trailer with her family. The family was on the road 11 months of the year, and when she wasn’t performing a rolling globe-and-acrobatic act with her two older sisters, she attended school at Tuttle Elementary, Brookside Middle and, eventually, Booker High.
Erendira Wallenda doesn’t recall her first performance — she was too young — but she does remember what she used to think about her future husband in the ’80s: “When we were little and growing up he was really annoying and dorky!” she laughs.
She says he used to wear short shorts with striped knee-high socks, Adidas shoes, a little hat and a Polo shirt buttoned all the way to the top button.
Her opinion of Nik Wallenda changed when she was about 14 years old. He was 17 years old and their parents were doing a show in Milwaukee. They started dating after that weekend.
Then, three years later, as Nik Wallenda and his family were performing The Flying Wallenda Seven-Person Pyramid in Canada, he proposed. Nik Wallenda stayed on the wire while the rest of his family descended. A banner dangled from the wire while Nik Wallenda asked her to marry him.
“I was in shock staring up at him,” Erendira Wallenda says.
“My mother-in-law (Delilah) had to come over to me and say, ‘Erendira, this is when you say yes!’” And she did. They were married in 2000.
Erendira Wallenda says she’ll leave the title of “Queen of the High Wire” to her mother-in-law, or sister-in-law, Lijana, because her high-wire act comes second when compared to her flying acrobat routine. She “didn’t really walk the wire” until after she was married at age 18.
Even so, she’s just as anti-harnesses as her husband, who successfully crossed Niagra Falls in June 2012 — even though he was required by law to wear a harness.
“I knew he would be safe even if he didn’t have it,” she says. “He was actually nervous wearing the harness … he was like, ‘Babe, I don’t like the way it feels on the back of me.’”
She knows what he means. The only time she’s ever felt like she was going to fall was when her foot got caught on a tether she was required to wear for a show in New York City.
Erendira Wallenda is grounded, or as grounded as a trapeze artist and wire-walker can be. She says her husband is the crazy one who stays up late coming up with ideas. He likes to push her to her full potential. If it were up to her, she’d practice a routine on a low wire 10 times before taking it up high.
“For him, it’s just like walking on the ground … It’s good that I have someone saying, ‘You can do it. I know you can do it,’” she says with a hand over her heart.
She enjoys walking the wire, which is what she will be doing in the upcoming Circus Sarasota performances. She’s also doing a trick called “Revolve,” in which she will be rotating around a bar suspended between Nik Wallenda and his cousin, Blake Wallenda, who will both be on the wire.
A true performer can do a variety of tricks, she explains. Erendira Wallenda can do anything from a sway pole (sitting atop a flexible pole that stretches high into the air) to her favorite trick — the cloud swing (a rope shaped like a swing on which she performs tricks).
And, despite her mother’s requests, she has no interest in ground acts.
“My mom would rather see me do an act on the ground and she’s always trying to convince me,” she says. “But I can’t!”
Nik and Erendira Wallenda have three children: Yanni, 14, is their “genius”; Amadeus, 11, is the piano-playing musician; and Evita, 9, their only daughter, is the ballerina. All three children know how to walk the wire, but Evita is the one who has shown the most interest in filling her parent’s high-wire shoes.
Although, they say it would be nice to see her daughter become the ninth-generation of performers, it can be scary to watch her baby balancing on her father’s shoulders as he walks the line. And Erendira Wallenda has developed empathy for her mother since seeing her own daughter walking 25 feet off the ground.
“I guess I understand it now that I see my kids up there. Sometimes, it’s hard (to watch),” she says.
Erendira Wallenda practices her acts four-to-five times a week in her in-laws’ backyard, where they have equipment set up on their acre of land. But, her practice schedule is dependent on when she can make time after toting her children to and from school, piano, dance and karate. For the most part, Erendira Wallenda and her children are based in Sarasota, while Nik Wallenda travels for work.
When she performs, it’s a treat — performing is what makes her feel alive.
“I love being a mother and a wife but that’s where I feel the most myself — in the air,” she says.
Behind the name
Meaning: “Smiling morning”
History: Erendira was a Tarascan princess circa 1503. She was a fearless warrior princess who fought the Spanish conquistadors when the men were too scared to do so.
IF YOU GO
Circus Sarasota’s ‘Nik Wallenda — His Journey Continues’
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25. Runs through Friday, Feb. 15
Where: Circus Sarasota Big Top, 1500 Stringfield Ave., Sarasota
Cost: Tickets $10 to $49
Info: Call 355-9805 for more information.
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