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Bailey Sloan Steps Right Up

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 18, 2014
"As ringmistress, looking at everyone is more exhilarating than being on a flying trapeze or high wire. Everyone's attention is on you," Bailey Sloan says.
"As ringmistress, looking at everyone is more exhilarating than being on a flying trapeze or high wire. Everyone's attention is on you," Bailey Sloan says.
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Every summer, The Circus Arts Conservatory, in collaboration with The Ringling, presents the Summer Circus Spectacular. The family-friendly show offers a variety of acts. This year, there’s a comedic clown routine from Chris Allison; a hand-balancing man, Christian Stoinev, and his dog, Scooby; quick-change act Olga and Vladimir Smirnov; and Sarasota’s very own “Queen of the Air,” Dolly Jacobs.

This year, 16-year-old Sailor Circus performer Bailey Sloan will be ringmistress. Diversions sat down with her to hear a little more about her history. Here’s what the 10th-generation performer had to say.

How did you get into being a circus performer?
In fourth grade I was a swimmer. I didn’t like my coach; I wasn’t advancing or making progress and said I didn’t want to do it anymore. My dad (who used to be a circus performer) suggested I try the circus. I didn’t want to stop doing it. I love it.

Tell us about your circus heritage.
I can date it back on paper to six generations. There’s someone else (in my family) who can take it back all 10. … The thing I like to brag about the most is that my great-grandfather had the world record for the tallest stilts in the world. My family was mostly stilt-walkers.

Do you ever walk on stilts?
(In addition to being the ringmistress) I do high wire, Spanish web, cradle and flying trapeze. We have a pair of stilts for the high wire, so I may do that this year for my big senior blow out.

So, you grew up hearing circus stories? Tell us your favorite.
Sloan isn’t legally my dad’s and my last name. It’s the performing last name. My father was born in England.

His name was supposed to be King Henry Dean Barnum Yelding Sloan, but they gave my grandmother a big fuss for naming him King Henry. King Henry was a family name from my grandmother’s side. Dean was from my grandfather’s side. Barnum was a circus name (that’s why they named me Bailey).
But, because (she was flustered), she forgot to add Sloan on the paperwork. So, legally he’s just King Henry Dean Barnum Yelding and I’m Bailey Yelding.

Is this what you want to do professionally?
Yes and no. I would love to have circus in my life for a long time, but my true passion is writing. I would love to be an author, but I have to figure out if I want to perform as soon as I graduate or go to school and get a degree. … I have my whole next year of school to figure it out.

Are you excited for the show?
Yes, I’m definitely excited! I’m nervous, but I’m pumped. I want to go now. I never thought of circus as a job. It’s never been something I’ve (dreaded) like, “I don’t feel like doing this today.” It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, and I enjoy doing it. I want to keep doing it.

Summer Circus Spectacular
When: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays. Runs through Aug. 2.
Where: Historic Asolo Theater, 5401 Bay Shore Road
Cost: Tickets $15
Info: Call 359-5700 or visit


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