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Saturday, November 13, 2010

The UniverSoul Circus, at Freedom Mart Shopping Center through Nov. 21, has about 70 performers representing 11 countries. T.ORTEGA GAINES - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Diversity soars - and thrills at UniverSoul Circus
By Théoden Janes Friday, Nov. 12, 2010

America's most diverse circus just keeps getting more diverse.

Formed in 1994 to showcase black performers, the UniverSoul Circus has expanded over 17 years to feature a multinational cast of about 70 performers representing 11 countries.

The production - founded in Atlanta by promoter Cedric Walker - combines circus arts, theater and an array of musical genres (pop, classic R&B, Latin, hip-hop, jazz and gospel). It is annually one of Ticketmaster's top 10 most-requested family events, along with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, "Sesame Street Live" and "Disney on Ice."

The UniverSoul Circus will stop at Charlotte's Freedom Mart Shopping Center next week for 11 shows over five days as part of a 500-show tour that will reach 32 U.S. cities. Here are some of the anticipated highlights, each of which adds to UniverSoul's diverse feel.

The Russian is coming

Tigers and elephants are often big draws for circuses, but the animals UniverSoul is most excited about this year are neither fierce nor massive. New to the lineup is an act called "Pampered Pooches," led by Russian dog trainer Irina Markova. Her canines - also seen on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and the Big Apple Circus - can jump rope, form conga lines, and circle the ring on their forelegs. A professional trainer since age 9, Markova was the subject of a short film documentary, "The Poodle Trainer," that was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival. (Note: UniverSoul Circus does have elephants and tigers, too.)

Going Dutch

If you'd like a little Harlem Globetrotters-style action, you're in luck: A pair of ball-handling wizards from Belgium and Holland will perform an act called "Double Dribble," and the Slam Dunk All Stars will perform "Above the Rim," a show that features "acrodunking" and other assorted stunts - including one involving a trampoline and a ring of fire.

Chinese imports

Also new for 2010: "Chinese Silks" by the China Soul Flyers, a troupe of 10 trapeze artists who perform a synchronized aerial dance with breathtaking maneuvers (including one in which four women move through the air while balancing teacups on two-piece crystal wands held with their mouths); and "Chinese Checkers" by the Chinese Drum Line, a group of nine female drummers/acrobats who create an aural and visual feast with drums and scarves that crisscross in midair.
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/11/12/1830851/diversity-soars-and-thrills.html#ixzz157G0ntPB

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