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The hula dancer

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 30, 2010
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Chiara Anastasini takes the stage for her rehearsal at the Historic Asolo Theater. She has hoops around her arms, hoops around her waist, hoops around her legs and hoops circling her ankles.

As she swivels and shimmies to Latin dance music, her father tosses her more hoops. The beat gets faster. Anastasini moves faster. The hoops orbit her body at such a high speed it looks like she might take flight.

She makes this look easy.

A ninth-generation circus performer, Anastasini, 18, is preparing for her Circus Sarasota debut. After spending the last few weeks performing at her father’s show at Wild Adventures Water & Theme Park, in Valdosta, Ga., and watching her brothers’ show at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Anastasini is ready to headline her own act — a solo act with Circus Sarasota’s summer show, “Circus, Cirque, Circo: A Family Tradition.”

When the 18-year-old Anastasini was younger, she performed with her brothers — 12-year-old Fabio and 21-year-old Giuliano. The middle child and only girl, Anastasini didn’t enjoy being their third wheel and punching bag.

Instead, Anastasini was enamored with hula-hoops. The fascination started when her parents — aerialists Giovanni and Irene Anastasini — began performing their spaceship act at Tampa’s Busch Gardens when Anastasini was in grade school.

In the summer, Anastasini’s grandparents would drive her and her brothers up to Tampa to watch their parents’ show, which was where Anastasini met a female circus performer with a hula-hoop act.

Anastasini remembers the woman taught her two simple tricks: how to spin hoops on her arms and how to pick hoops up with her feet.

By the sixth grade she had decided to join the family business. She enrolled in home school and accompanied her parents and brothers on the road.

On tour with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Anastasini’s mother would pay showgirls to teach her daughter how to dance. By the time Anastasini was 14, she was performing professionally, bedecked in Vegas-style sequins and a flashy cowboy hat and spinning hoe-down style to “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

“It got embarrassing as I got older,” Anastasini says of her cowgirl routine.

She went through a rock phase, spiked her hair and hula-hooped to alternative music. Last year, she transitioned into Latin music, where she says she finally feels comfortable.

“Latin is faster and smoother and more fun,” Anastasini says.

After rehearsing for 45 minutes, she’s sweaty and winded, but only slightly — a testament to her youth and work ethic.

She mentions that the activity is less strenuous for her because she’s conditioned herself to the movement.
“If I want a workout, I go for a jog,” Anastasini says. “Hula-hooping isn’t work for me. It’s just fun. I could have a conversation with you right now and be hula-hooping.”

If you go

“Circus, Cirque, Circo: A Family Tradition” runs now through Aug. 1, at the Historic Asolo Theater. For tickets, call 360-7399 or visit  

BACKSTAGE PASS: Chiara Anastasini throws Heidi Kurpiela for a loop (VIDEO)

Circus Sarasota hula-hooper Chiara Anastasini tries to teach A&E Editor Heidi Kurpiela how to work two hoops at one, by spinning one around her wrist and one around her waist. It’s not as hard as you think.



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