For an hour, anything is possible.
When you sit down at the Historic Asolo Theater for the Summer Circus Spectacular, you might not be sure what you’re about to see. But you can be sure it will be remarkable.
Depending on when you arrive, you might see Pedro Reis, the co-founder and CEO of the Circus Arts Conservatory, in the lobby of the The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. You might even be needled by Chris Allison, the clown college graduate, before you get a chance to sit down.
And that’s when it gets really interesting. Allison, a veteran of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, provides interstitial comedy throughout the performance, interacting with the audience and providing time for the sets to change behind the curtain.
But it’s the main acts that will thrill and energize your soul.
The first act, Abreham Mola, performs on the rolla bolla, which basically looks like a plank on top of a tomato can. He stands on it precariously, moving from side to side, looking like he may well be about to hurt himself. But he doesn’t; he recovers and he starts doing stunts.
Mola, at one point in the act, receives assistance from someone on the ground. He’s standing at least five feet up on this platform, perched precariously, and someone is throwing shelves at him.
Mola deftly catches them, stacks them on the cylinder, stands on top of them.
He’s building a bookcase. And he’s standing on top, shelf by shelf. Without missing a beat.
He’ll also take it apart, stepping down, tossing the planks back off the platform. And if you’ve ever assembled or disassembled an IKEA bookcase, you know it shouldn’t look this easy.
Mola, born in Ethiopia, will perform a couple more death-defying feats of balance. He’ll put a ball on top pf the platform, and a plank on top of the ball, and then he’ll stand on that.
By the time he gets down, you’re just happy that nobody has hurt themselves.
The next act, Ricardo Sosa, is even harder to believe.
Sosa, a Cuban hand balancer and contortionist, will flex his body into anatomically impossible positions, and he’ll be able to support all of his weight on one hand.
There are times when Sosa, 66 years old, resembles an Olympic gymnast on the uneven bars, suspended upside down and spreading his legs.
And there are times where he resembles something almost inhuman.
He’ll stand on a platform, poised on one leg, and he’ll curve his other leg all the way behind his head without losing his balance. At one point, he turns around, back to the audience, and he puts his entire torso though his leg split. This man is made of silly putty, and he somehow always snaps back into shape.
Allison has the hard act of stitching the show back together when the main acts leave the stage, and he’s assisted by master of ceremonies Heidi Harriott. Allison interacts with the audience and he calls them up to assist in his juggling and comedy acts, sometimes kids and sometimes adults to help him.
But then when the laughs subside, another act hits the stage.
The third act, Olga Coronas and Holly Legare, would absolutely be at home in the Olympics. The pair of acrobats perform on the duo lyra, and their synchronized dance routine is reminiscent of rhythmic gymnastics. But that’s before they get off the ground.
Coronas and Legare will grab onto what looks like a giant hula hoop, and they’ll be hoisted into the air where they will continue their high flying acrobatics. They’ll hang precariously from one hand, using each other’s bodies for support, limbs spelling out impossibly acute angles.
At another moment, they’ll cross over each other’s bodies, weaving into and out of the hoop, legs split and arms akimbo. One member will sit atop the hoop, 15 feet off the ground, while her partner sits inside it.
They’ll use each other’s bodies to perform incredible feats; there will be moments where you can’t tell where one performer begins and the other ends.
Somehow, at one point, one member of the team is thrusting outside of the hoop, arms behind her to support herself, and her partner is pointed straight down, head toward the floor. They right themselves again and again before returning to Earth and a relieved ovation.
The final act, well, you have to see it to believe it. For instance, I can use my words to tell you that one member of the group will balance his partner in his palm, holding her by the head, while she is completely inverted and pointing her legs directly up in the air.
But that doesn’t mean anything to you until you see it performed for yourself.
Julio Fajardo Arjona and Seida Maite Ramirez Lobaina’s act is incredibly sensual, full of elements of ballroom dancing and also balancing acts of wizardry.
Their strength and grace and dexterity cannot be overstated. Arjona won’t just balance his partner in one hand; he’ll toss her and catch her, guiding her through incredible movements.
At one point, she’ll balance herself on her head on top of his head.
There’s no wires. No nets. And no chance you can picture it until you see it in person.
By the point Arjona and Lobaina leave the stage, you’ll be emotionally drained, uncertain of how any human being can learn the acts they’ve performed over the pervious hour.
And they’ll come out, together, so you can shower them with one final round of applause.