The best way to see the UniverSoul Circus, if you’re an adult, is to see it with a child. Which is why, on opening night last Thursday at Chene Park, I took my grandson Rylee. Because I remembered all too well the wonder I experienced when I was his age witnessing my first circus as a kid growing up in Denver, Colorado.
But as excited as I was all those years ago, and as much fun as I had with my parents when they took me to see the Ringling Brothers Circus (I’m pretty sure Barnum and Bailey came to town too, but that’s going back close to 50 years so forgive me if I don’t quite remember), I still have to wonder how much more excited I may have been to see something like the Universoul Circus. Because the UniverSoul Circus is the first circus I have ever seen where there were performers who looked like me, and I can say without question how much joy that gives me even as an adult. But as a 4-year-old kid? The age of my grandson? I mean, I can’t even…
The first time I saw the UniverSoul Circus was about 15 years ago when they first came to Chene Park and my wife and I were living within walking distance. There really was no good excuse to miss a circus featuring a lot of black folks, especially not a circus featuring a lot of black folks within walking distance in Detroit. So we went. I don’t know what I expected, but whatever it was, the performance we witnessed was far beyond anything I had imagined. To be such a relatively small operation with only one ring and a tent that fits into a parking lot, the amount of magic that took place for those two hours simply blew me away.
All these years later, I never would have believed anything that great could have gotten so much better. But it has. I could try an describe the magic acts (including huge tigers that somehow appear within the blink of an eye inside cages that appear to be empty), the contortionists, the clown dancers that perform their moves and grooves hilariously throughout the show, or the motorcycle stunt drivers that explode into the air above the heads of the crowd…
But you would never believe me.
And it wasn’t just the jaw-dropping performances and sheer quality of the entire event, but the fact that not only were there so many performers of color (including the ringmaster, and his sidekick Zeke, a crowd favorite that remains with the circus to this day), but that these were performers of color from around the world. From Africa. Jamaica. South America. Asia. So many places. All of them working together to create joy for others. As the ringmaster pointed out at last week’s opening night, “Isn’t that the way it should be?”
Indeed it is.
The UniverSoul Circus will be in Detroit thru Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016,
at Chene Park, 2600 East Atwater, Detroit, MI 48207.