Circus will ‘Prevail’ with arena show in Sarasota

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Darren Trull, an aerial strap artist who has performed in several Cirque du Soleil shows, will be among the artists donating their performances to the Circus Arts Conservatory for its special arena show “Prevail.”

The Circus Arts Conservatory had to cancel its Circus Sarasota and Cirque des Voix seasons this year along with its annual Big Top fundraising gala because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be giving fans a different kind of circus production with a special showcase called “Prevail.”

It will feature a variety of Cirque du Soleil veterans who have been unable to perform while productions are shut down. “Prevail” will be presented in the Sarasota Sailor Circus Arena for 10 performances March 5-7 and March 12-14 in front of a limited in-person audience. It also will be made available as an on-demand home streaming program.

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All the artists featured are making their Sarasota debuts and are donating their performances to support a variety of CAC activities, including programs involving students, seniors in assisted living communities and aspiring circus artists.

Many of the artists come from the world of Cirque du Soleil and have ties to some of the newer coaches and trainers working with the Sailor Circus.

The roster of performers includes aerial artist Alanna Baker; aerial strap artist Darren Trull; Native American hoop dancers Eric Hernandez and Shandien LaRance; slack wire artist Evgeny Vasilenko; silks artist Giulia Piolanti; Chinese pole artist Oli Poitras; and unicyclists and acrobats Marie-Lee and Philippe, who were contestants on “America’s Got Talent” in 2016.

Marie-Lee and Philippe, who perform on unicycle and in a balancing act, will perform in the Circus Arts Conservatory’s “Prevail” show. They were contestants on “America’s Got Talent” in 2016.

These artists have appeared in such Cirque shows as “OVO,” “Volta,” “Luzia” and “Paramour.” 

Joseph Bauer Jr., a veteran ringmaster and daredevil performer, will serve as host of the production.

“The initial idea for this sprung from the fact that the new coaches at Sailor Circus had been in touch with these artists, some of whom were interested in coming to train and practice in our facility while their own shows were shut down,” said Executive Director Jennifer Mitchell. “It’s just an idea that evolved even further” when the coaches and artists heard we may have to cancel the Circus Sarasota shows.

Mitchell said it was not financially feasible to set up and maintain the Big Top tent for the planned Circus Sarasota shows at Nathan Benderson Park this year while limiting attendance for safety concerns.

She said Circus Sarasota has become synonymous with an event presented under the Big Top. “That show has become known as the one-ring international circus, so we couldn’t just move Circus Sarasota to the arena. But we are able to do something different in the arena.”

The organization will be providing transportation and housing for the performers, who Mitchell said “have been incredibly generous.” 

Aerial lyra artist Alanna Baker, who has toured with Cirque du Soleil, is among the artists performing in the Circus Arts Conservatory show “Prevail.”

The organization safely presented Sarasota Sailor Circus shows around the holiday season, limiting the audience to 250-300 people per performance or up to 30 percent of capacity.

“And we have learned a lot about the best ways to seat people and maintain social distancing,” she said. The building also has an ionization system in continuous operation and sanitizing and other safety protocols in place.

CAC will record the first weekend of performances, edit the video and then make it available for home streaming beginning March 12, at the start of the second weekend of performances.

In person tickets will be $20-$50 and digital tickets are $25. For more information or reservations, call 941-355-9805 or visit circusarts.org/prevail-a-benefit-for-the-circus-arts.

More:Read more arts and entertainment stories by Jay Handelman