The UniverSoul Circus, America’s only African American-owned and operated circus, features feats of amazing acrobatics like the aerial artistry of “Sheer Romance” (top), the contortion display “Twisted Soul” (left), powerful pint-sized entertainers like ringmaster’s sidekick Zeke (center), and wilderness wonders when “Noah’s Ark” breaks out in the center ring with eight animal creatures. (Hannibal Matthews photos)
Johnson adds that the UniverSoul Circus makes a lot of historical references “that are part of African American culture” and that attractions include several activities typical of African American performance culture, including the “call and response” tactic.
“The ringmaster might say, ‘Big top!’ and the audience would say, ‘Circus!’” Johnson says. “Also, dancing is a huge part of our culture and you will see that in the ring with performers, as well as when we invite the audience into the ring.”
To accommodate the masses, the circus has set up a 157-foot-wide one-ring big-top tent at Northeastern — large enough to hold 2,500 spectators per show.
Robert Gittens, vice president for public affairs at Northeastern, says he is glad the circus contacted the university when they were looking for a place to perform.
“It’s a circus that has a great reputation, [which] focuses on inner-city audiences,” Gittens says. “It is a really unique form of entertainment folks are going to enjoy.”
Terryl Calloway, a local event planner and concert promoter who mediated the deal between Northeastern and the circus, says he thinks the location is perfect for this kind of show because of the lot’s proximity to the Ruggles T station.
“And with gas being the way it is, it’s very helpful economically for people to bring their families,” Calloway adds.
This year, some of the acts include a three-man comedy trapeze troupe from South Africa, acrobats on horseback from Kazakhstan and contortionists from Guinea who promise to twist their bodies in jaw-dropping positions.
“We have a very powerful show,” says Johnson. “It has a lot of audience participation. It’s not uncommon to see three and sometimes four generations coming to the circus together. We are performing a show people of all generations love.”
The animals will do all sorts of tricks as well, according to Johnson, executing choreography with trainers and acrobats, jumping over obstacles and much more.
“[We] will give you high energy for two hours and you will go home wanting more,” Johnson assures.
The UniverSoul Circus presents “Jabulani: Joy, Happiness & Laughter,” running now through July 6 at Northeastern University’s Columbus Avenue Parking Lot, located on Columbus Avenue near Melnea Cass Boulevard at the Ruggles T station. Tickets range from $15.50 to $30. Groups of 20 or more are asked to call 800-316-7439.
The official Web site of America's only black-owned and operated circus features tour dates, show information, music, photos and much more. More »
Check the technique of the circus' gifted performers and entertainers in an assortment of video clips from UniverSoul's live performances. More »