Having hosted nearly 2 million kids and adults of all ages to see their performances since 1997, they plan to exceed that as everyone loves “hip hop under the big top.” UniverSoul Circus will present a multicultural/multinational cast of rock-star performers. Only under the UniverSoul Circus one ring big top will you be lucky enough to witness the Comedy Dog Act from Chile, Caribbean Dynasty from Trinidad and Tobago, Contortionists from Ethiopia, Magical Tigers and disco dancing Elephants from the United States. New acts to Philadelphia this year will include Russian Bar from Cuba, Aerial Duet from Colombia, Pagoda Bowl Acrobats from China and Airborne Motorcycles from California. The entire line-up will help this tour de force of circus artistry bridge cultures from around the world.
“Just like the circular ring in which it sits, UniverSoul celebrates cultures from around the world and brings them together under the big top,” said Founder and CEO Cedric Walker. “At this time in our history we need to come together, to embrace and learn from each other. I believe the circus naturally brings people together. In 23 years of searching for talent, I have journeyed to every continent to find a multicultural, multinational mix of talent to showcase.”
PHILADELPHIA AND UNIVERSOUL CIRCUS
UniverSoul Circus started its long history with Philadelphia dating back to 1997, when the circus big top pitched its tent at Sweetbriar Field, across from Memorial Hall in West Fairmount Park. Twelve traditional big-top acts performed in the one-ring set-up that made for an intimate experience for those seeking more family-oriented entertainment. While still just three years old when UniverSoul set-up shop in Philadelphia, the circus received national accolades. Circus magazine at the time called the show “superbly promoted, superbly produced…”
Over the next 19 years, UniverSoul Circus would continue to bring Philadelphia its unique blend of hip hop under the big top. While international artistry blossomed in the spotlight of the shows, the circus helped boost and support the local economy. UniverSoul has continued to support Fairmount Park and the city by returning each and every year to West Philadelphia. Local Philadelphians were hired to run concessions and assist with running of the box office. Travelling circus families on tour would absorb all the history lessons the country's founding fathers had to offer. Artists and performers would support the local economy while calling the city home for weeks during each season. Local youth groups and non-profits would benefit from fundraising nights, community programs, circus camps and school workshops.
“UniverSoul Circus has such a deep and rich history with Philadelphia,” said Walker. “We have been entertaining generation after generation here. We are thrilled to return with our top global artists to a world-class city that celebrates international cultures and talents. Philadelphia is a city that has really been part of our UniverSoul Circus family since the early days – and we are so excited to be back!”
Looking back, UniverSoul Circus has attracted nearly 2 million guests from as close as Parkside down the street, to Maryland, New York, Washington and beyond.
Leading the charge for Philadelphia in 2016 as UniverSoul Circus Ringmaster is the multi-talented Lucky Malatsi of Johannesburg, South Africa. Lucky, 27, has been performing in front of an audience for 23 years. In 1999, while performing in South Africa, Lucky caught the attention of Cedric Walker. By 2000, at the age of 10, he was performing a popular duo contortionist act for UniverSoul. Married with two young kids growing up in the back lot, Lucky brings new meaning to the term, multi-talented. He has been an acrobatic hip hop dancer, acrobat, contortionist, trapeze artist, teeterboard flyer, trampoline artist and an acrobatic-dunking whiz kid with basketballs.
Over the two-hour show, Lucky will lead the high-energy show which features 12 other performers and artists from the United States and around the world:
Ringmaster sidekick extraordinaire Zeke is back for another great season! Exciting, magnetic, high energy and vivacious describe this remarkable entertainer born in South Carolina and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. Zeke is often seen meeting and greeting audience members throughout the show. Zeke has the distinction of being UniverSoul’s first Ringmaster’s Sidekick. He’s been with the circus from the start in 1994. Yo Zeke!
* Airborne (New 2016)
The UniverSoul Circus fans have never seen anything like it. X-Treme is a true understatement when talking about a quartet of professional motorcycle daredevils who blow the roof off the big top on a daily basis. Eric Farr, 31 of Colorado, Derrick Deckering, 27, of Southern California, Jake Jolson, 19, of Northern California and Ray Bennett, 28 of Pennsylvania, all 10-plus years veterans of motorcycles are making their debut with UniverSoul in 2016. Fans audibly gasp and scream as revved up motorcycles fly 30 feet into the air, with jumps an unbelievable 75 feet long. They’ve performed together at fairs, rodeos and monster jams in all 50 states in the U.S. , and around the world in Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, and Finland. Deckering, who has been performing since he was a young child, is a professional stunt BMX rider who never imagined he would run away with a circus.
* Fly High (New 2016)
From Havana, Cuba, this fearsome foursome performs and incredible act on a Russian bar that sends its acrobatic performers skyward with the buoyancy of a trampoline. In 2016, they perform in the United States for the first time ever, after touring China, Germany, Spain, Italy, Chile and Venezuela with state-owned Havana Company. They have performed with Circo Quatico and Moure Osfei in Italy, Circo Mundial and Circus Alergrie in Spain, and the Flic Flac circus of Germany. Since 2013, the powerful young men, ranging in age 19-34, have taken home the top prize gold medal at circus competitions in China and Cuba.
* Porcelain Dolls (New 2016)
Returning after 10 years, the Chinese native, Pagoda Bowls act makes a triumphant return to UniverSoul Circus. Pagoda Bowls is a non-traditional Chinese acrobatic balancing act, direct from the Orient. This act features five males and five females. The muscle bound men simultaneously balance the women with their hands and feet, while performing mind-bending contortion movements, one being a 360-degree turn with the girls on their hands. Their grace of balancing offers a breathtaking presentation with mounts that must be seen to be believed.
Three young ladies from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia marked their first ever United States appearance with the UniverSoul Circus in 2015. This precision based hand balancing act features three female acrobats performing slow, enfolding movements, performed with great fluidity and grace. It’s a combination of strength and flexibility that helps them balance on top of each other while doing handstands. Ranging in age from 16 to 22, Trinity has performed on three continents: with the Gamo Circus in Ethiopia, Lee Academy in Australia and Salto Circus in the Netherlands.
* Duo Roxanne (New 2016)
2016 marks the first time aerial duo Paola Ramos, 35, and Gustavo Gomez, 37, of Cali, Colombia, have ever toured in the United States. They display an uncommon amount of power, dexterity and poetry in motion as they dance the tango from elevated heights. Although this is their first time performing for UniverSoul, Paola and Gustavo have been performing together for the past seven years in international festivals, circus’s, and cruise ships. Their unique act, which takes its cues from the Moulin Rouge storyline, has been performed in England, France, Italy Spain, Ireland, Australia, Argentina, China and Ecuador.
If you see this incredibly gifted entertainer coming your way, don’t walk…RUN! He’s probably taking you on stage to play a super silly dancing game of follow-the-leader. You really have to be a good sport to follow this “leader” on to the dance floor, better known as center ring. At 24 years old, Sifiso has worn many performance hats during his eight years at UniverSoul, including slapstick comedy, trampoline, trapeze and teeterboard. Hailing from Johannesburg, Sifiso got his start in show business as a grand prize winner of the popular South African reality TV show, “30 Seconds to Fame.”
Fresh the Clownsss
Have you seen our soulful clown quartet? Don’t worry, if you’re lucky, they’ll find you. They’ll shine their spotlight on you and have you faux singing to their specially configured microphone stand. Better known under the UniverSoul big top as Soul Karaoke, this quartet has built a large following in their hometown of Detroit for their hip hop dancing and “swagged out” clothing style. In their second year with the circus, the four members consider themselves unlike any clown brigade on the circuit today. Ranging in age from 22-30, you might find them sporting a Mohawk, afro or even dreadlocks.
The exotic paradise of the Caribbean comes to life as dancers in vibrant and colorful costumes swing to the rhythms of the islands. Marvel at the agility and daring of these exotic dancers as they perform the national dance of the Caribbean. When the limbo bar goes to six inches from the floor – in a blaze of fire…it’s intriguing…a spectacle to behold. Join in and clap your hands as the energy, the beat and the pageantry of the Caribbean engulf the Big Top. The Caribbean dance team, which hails from Trinidad & Tobago is a perennial favorite at UniverSoul.
Soul Circus Divas
From the USA, Larry Carden begins his first year as elephant presenter for UniverSoul Circus in 2015. However, he has been working in circuses and with elephants since he was 15 years old. You could say circus is in his blood. His grandfather trained elephants and so did his father who currently runs the George Carden Circus. At a mind-blowing 6 tons, one of Larry’s elephants is the largest performing male elephant in the whole wide world! He loves to eat grass, hay, grain, fruits and vegetables. His elephants can play the harmonica, blast a horn, and play the drums in sync with music. They can even balance on a plank, a barrel and a turntable!
Comedy Dog Act
The Olates and their cute, cuddly, capricious, cavorting canines hail from Santiago, Chile in South America. The Olates have been performing for over a quarter of a century on two continents throughout South America, the U.S.A. and Canada. Jose Olate, patriarch of this family affair, is a second-generation circus artist. “My family began in the circus arts performing on the high wire, and later trapeze…moving onto our present love, ‘man’s best friend’,” says Jose. The Olate Dog Act with their unique costumes and humorous antics continues to delight, especially, the young fans of the UniverSoul Circus. They are from the famed, Olate family that recently won America’s Got Talent.
Onionhead the Clown
As our signature clown, Robert Dunn, better known as Onionhead, captures the essence of UniverSoul Circus with his outlandish characters and crazy audience participation skits. He got his start as a birthday party clown in 1983 when he stepped in after his daughter was unhappy with the clown he hired for her party. The laughter of the children went right to his soul. In 1996, he joined UniverSoul Circus working as a cook, with the tent crew, and anywhere else there was a job to do. It was not long before he was making cameo appearances as Onionhead. Since then, there’s been no looking back for our favorite Clown Playah! He’s been center ring — and all around the ring — ever since.
For photos, videos and more information about the above performers, or for tickets and show time, visit www.universoulcircus.com
UniverSoul is a highly interactive combination of circus arts, theater, and music that spans genres including Pop, Classic R&B, Latin, Hip Hop, Jazz and Gospel. It embraces and celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of pop culture globally by bringing them center stage with a cast of international performers. UniverSoul Circus is rated as one of the top three circuses in America along with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey and Cirque du Soleil. UniverSoul’s fresh approach to family friendly live entertainment has garnered it a coveted spot as one of Ticketmaster’s top ten most requested family events, along with other shows including Sesame Street Live, Disney on Ice, and Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The circus was founded 23 years ago in Atlanta by concert and theatre promoter, Cedric Walker.