Thursday, August 23, 2001

Urban circus touches, inspires

'It is so gratifying to see all people's worries disappear for 2 1/4 hours'

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The funkiest show on Earth thrilled about 2,000 fans under the Swifton Commons big top Wednesday with mind-boggling feats, eye-popping magic tricks and foot-stomping music.

        The UniverSoul Circus — fresh off a tour of South Africa — arrived in Cincinnati for five days and nights of performances expected to attract as many as 20,000 people.

        This is the third straight year the circus has visited the Queen City.

        UniverSoul has been entertaining audiences nationwide with its brand of urbanized circus performances for seven years.

        The high-energy show features the first African-American ringmaster in history, Casual Cal, as well as black and Latin acts from around the globe performing to hip-hop, gospel, rhythm and blues, salsa and reggae music.

        But what makes UniverSoul different from typical circuses?

        “It's close to the people,” said Denyse Parks, national media-relations manager.

        “You can reach out and shake their hands. It's very personable.”

        And positive.

        UniverSoul has been credited with reaching the urban family unit in African-American communities across the nation through its inspirational messages to children, encouragement of family values and expression of African-American culture in ways that are different.

        “It has a very different twist,” said Levie Smith of Bond Hill.

        Mr. Smith was in line Wednesday afternoon at Swifton Commons purchasing tickets for himself and his two nephews.

        “I like the values that they promote in their show, like having a positive self image and the importance of family. It's much different than any other circus I've seen,” he said.

        Ms. Parks said inspirational messages, such as respecting one's elders, being kind to others and loving God, are particularly important in a city such as Cincinnati, which is experiencing a racially tense time.

        “With all the stuff that goes on in the African-American community, it is so gratifying to see all people's worries disappear for 2 1/4 hours,” she said.

        “I hope we can participate in the healing process for Cincinnati and its residents by bringing people together in a fun atmosphere that teaches us to be with one another and love one another.”


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