Taba Maluenda, above, and his wife are performers.
BY JENNIFER V. HUGHES, SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Valentine's Day may be over but under the big top, love is still in the air.
Audience members may not know it, but several performers in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus — coming to North Jersey this weekend — are married couples.
Lucenir Viera de Souza was just 18 when she fell in love with tiger tamer Tabayara Maluenda. Then 28, the Chilean native was performing during a monthlong stint in de Souza's Brazilian hometown of Maringa. She routinely walked past the circus practice area on her way to university classes, where she was studying to be a physical education teacher, and they struck up a romance.
When the circus left town, she went with him. They've now been together for 17 years and have two children, a 4-year-old son and a teenage daughter who is a budding circus performer.
"After a year or two I really started enjoying the circus life," she said. "I had always been involved in sports so I started working in acrobatics. About four years ago, he started training me on how to work with animals."
De Souza does not work with tigers in the cage, like her husband does. She continues to perform as an aerialist and also performs with horses and elephants. Maluenda is a sixth-generation circus performer who tamed his first tiger at age 15.