The pandemic has continued through 2021 and continues 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 guest actor Darren Strull still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
A circus benefit show called “Prevail!” will be held at the Sailor Circus Arena on Bahia Vista Street from Friday March 5th to Sunday March 7th and will return the following weekend for a total of 10 performances. The production includes a number of professional acts from multiple circus characters who have never performed in Sarasota.
Reis has spearheaded countless shows throughout his career, saying Prevail! came together through conversations with staff and Strull, an air belt performer living in Canada. He started talking to Reis a few months ago about student training at the CAC while he was with his parents in Sarasota, but the conversation turned into a new show with performers from outside the area.
Trainer Miguel Vargas and Trull brought together a number of artists from around the country and around the world, many of whom have performed with Cirque du Soleil. The duo were able to help sell the show to some based on Sarasota’s history of circus performances.
Jennifer Mitchell, executive director of the Circus Arts Conservatory, said the venue is also a big draw. The 10 performers will put on a show at the Sailor Circus Arena, with standard social distancing rules that include masks and limited seating. The show will also be streamed to digital viewers from March 12th.
“From a performance perspective, there are very few operations services that offer performances,” said Mitchell. “With so many artists around the world looking for spaces like this, we’re in luck here in Sarasota.”
The show’s lineup includes a mix of ground and aerial shots performing solo and as duos. Alanna Baker, who toured with the “OVO” production, will be hosting an air lyre hoop show. Oli Poitras plans to climb a Chinese pole and perform dazzling movements, while Marie-Lee and Philippe will put on a show with their unicycle act. Sarasota character Joseph Bauer Jr. is the ringmaster of the show.
Trull, who has also performed with Cirque du Soleil, plans to perform to emphasize the connection with people. He hopes his focus on positivity and unity will be good for the audience, and in the spirit of “Prevail!” Theme.
“Since the industry closed, everyone has built their own personalized acts,” said Trull. “Many of these will be some of the first places (the performers) test them out in front of 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 passing through the current climate.
“In the world of COVID, we thought (Hernandez and LaRance) would have perfect energy,” Reis said. (It’s the) kind of discipline to reach out to the audience and add that energy … to come together and support each other. “
Reis, Vargas and Trull are more than just a collection of circus acts. They paid special attention to the pace and energy of each act, and hope to lead their audience through a beginning, a middle, and an end.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s a feeling,” he said. “You just feel it and you put the energy in the right place.”