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Saturday, February 5, 2011

UniverSoul brings funky, fresh circus, along with a lesson in morality
By Lynn Peisner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

UniverSoul may be Atlanta’s hometown circus, but the season rarely opens on home turf.

We like to get all the kinks out of our show before we go to Atlanta,” said founder Cedric Walker on the phone from Miami, the second stop on a 28-city tour. “Atlanta is the apple of our eye. We need to get a little bit of juice and energy going before we hit home.”

With all the action compressed in one ring, UniverSoul may be smaller than some of its big top competitors, but in 17 years, it’s never been short on energy. Performances are famous for drawing crowds to their feet, and for infusing pop, hip-hop R&B and jazz into the program.

The show was born from the idea that circus-style entertainment should be more relevant to inner-city audiences. Walker also wanted to present African-American talents that went beyond singing and dancing, while keeping the intimacy and authenticity of an old-fashioned, one-ring circus with a Vaudeville edge.

The performances have grown beyond Walker’s vision of “Hip-Hop under the big top” into a worldly troupe of aerialists, contortionists, dancers and animal trainers, as well as a progressively diverse audience.

“Our non-black patrons are increasing every year and loving the show. It's about how it's funky and fresh and cutting-edge. We have Chinese, Latino, Russian performers. The circus, in and of itself, is about people from around the world performing together and bringing this global performance to one venue. We haven’t done or discovered anything new, we’ve just mixed it with an urban lifestyle.”

After a five-year hiatus, French aerialist Jean Claude returns this year, along with Ricardo, a Cuban-born contortionist and ringmaster Shuckey Duckey (Def Comedy Jam’s Cecil Armstrong) and his sidekick, Zeke. Female Chinese bicyclists compete in an impressive daredevil act, and high-speed motorcycles race around the Globe of Death.

Not many circuses incorporate spiritual messages into the program, but UniverSoul ends on a gospel note this year, with a message Walker said is aimed at young women.

“It speaks to how young ladies can get dragged into a lifestyle because of music videos and flesh that has to be shown. The next thing you know, a young girl has lost her life to stripping and prostitution. Church is where God and Christian beliefs can build self-esteem and fortify you.”

read more at:http://www.accessatlanta.com/AccessAtlanta-sharing_/universoul-brings-funky-fresh-828266.html

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