The pandemic has rolled on into 2021 and has continued to affect local arts and performance groups, and the Circus Arts Conservatory is no exception.
The planned Big Top 2021 season was canceled in January, but founder and CEO Pedro Reis and visiting performer Darren Strull still have a few tricks up their circus sleeves.
A circus benefit show called "Prevail!" will run Friday, March 5 through Sunday, March 7 at the Sailor Circus Arena on Bahia Vista Street and return the following weekend for a total of 10 performances. The production features a number of professional acts from several circus figures who've never performed in Sarasota.
Reis has spearheaded countless shows in his career and said Prevail! came together through conversations with staff and Strull, an aerial-strap performer who lives in Canada. He started talking to Reis about training students at CAC while staying with his parents in Sarasota a few months ago, but the conversation evolved into a new show with performers from outside the area.
Coach Miguel Vargas and Trull assembled a series of performers from across the country and throughout the world, many of whom have performed with Cirque du Soleil. The duo were able to help sell the show to a few based on Sarasota’s storied history of circus performances.
Circus Arts Conservatory Managing Director Jennifer Mitchell said the venue was also a big draw. The 10 performers will put on a show from the Sailor Circus Arena, with standard social distancing rules in place that include masks and limited seating capacity. The show will be streamed for digital viewers as well, starting March 12.
“From a performance angle, there's very few operating services putting performances on,” Mitchell said.”With so many artists around the world looking for these kinds of spaces, we're lucky here in Sarasota.
The show's lineup includes a mix of ground and aerial acts performing solo and as duos. Alanna Baker, who toured with the "OVO" production, will put on an aerial lyra hoop show. Oli Poitras plans to scale a Chinese pole and execute dazzling moves, while Marie-Lee and Philippe will put on a show with their unicycle act. Sarasota figure Joseph Bauer Jr. is the show's ringmaster.
Trull, who has also performed with Cirque du Soleil, plans his performance to emphasize connecting with people. He said he hopes his focus on positivity and unity will be good for the audience and be in spirit of the show's "Prevail!" theme.
“Since the industry shut down everyone's been building their own personalized acts,” Trull said. “So a lot of these will be some of the first places that (the performers) test them out with an audience.”
Hoop dancers Eric Hernandez and Shandien LaRance will perform a Native American healing dance that Reis hopes will fit the spirit of coming together and making it through the current climate.
“In the world of COVID, we thought that (Hernandez and LaRance) would have a perfect energy,” Reis said. (It's the) type of discipline to reach out to the audience and add that energy … of coming together and supporting each other.”
More than just a collection of circus acts, Reis, Vargas and Trull have paid particular attention to each act's pacing and energy with hopes of taking their audiences through a beginning, middle and an end.
“It's not rocket science, it's a feeling,” he said. “You just feel it and you place the energy in the right place.”