A Review: The UniverSoul Circus
On Friday, April 13, 2018 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, I attended the spectacle of a lifetime- the UniverSoul Circus.
The UniverSoul Circus’s Background
The UniverSoul Circus’s founder and CEO, Cedric Walker, is a hometown hero.
Walker was born in Baltimore, but later moved to Tuskegee, Alabama. While in Tuskegee, he linked up with the musical legends, The Commodores, and became their production and stage manager. Walker even worked with the Jackson Five briefly, but his true love was always for the circus.
Walker had a vision to create a circus that is racially diverse and in 1993 he finally brought that dream into fruition.
Twenty-Five years ago, the UniverSoul Circus preformed its first show in Atlanta, Georgia. The Soul Circus, as Birmingham locals call it, is the most diverse, upbeat, and funky circus know to man.
The show started at 7 pm and I could feel the excitement from the parking lot.
Birmingham was finally presented with beautiful spring weather after several chilly and rainy nights. The light evening wind was filled with the sweet childhood smells of cotton candy, popcorn, and animals.
In the distance, I could see the huge red and yellow tent and my heart rendered a familiar flutter.
I felt like I was a kid again as I past through an area where circus attendees could purchase food, drinks, souvenirs, and even have their faces painted. However, the real treat was entering the Big Top.
I was a few minutes late, but I was right on time for a spectacle of a lifetime.
The show was hosted by a very hilarious and animated Ring Master who was dressed in all matter of colors, sequins, and bling, all topped off with a white Kangol hat.
This show was a real celebration of people of color, featuring acts from all over the world- Cuba, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Columbia just to name a few locations.
Each act was thrilling and there was never a dull moment. There were a pair of skaters who did a frightening trick with a rope, fire breathers, extreme tight rope walkers who took things to the next level, silt dancers, and many more death defying acts.
One of my favorite performances was from The Bone Breakers, a set of contortionists who twisted their bodies in ways that were nail-biting.
I also really enjoyed the African Dream Team. These cool acrobats wore outfits that looked as if they were straight out of Wakanda, and they did flips and tricks so amazing I still can not get over them.
There were animals in the show, but they were mostly domestic. Each animal performer was treated with more love and respect than I have ever see at any other major circus chain. Not a whip or chain in sight.
The UniverSoul Circus prides themselves on being the most interactive circus ever and this statement is true.
Several kids and adults got the chance to enter the ring for dance challenges galore.
The Fresh Clowns helped with these musical ventures and I, who am not fond of clowns, really liked them. I mean, where else can you find clowns dressed in Adidas tracksuits and wearing rainbow mohawks and afros?
The UniverSoul Circus staff should also pride themselves on being masters of distraction.
They Ring Master and the Fresh Clowns kept the audience so engaged, I never noticed the equipment being changed between performances.
Audience members got to party to new and old school songs and it would not be a black family show without Frankie Beverly and Maze’s Before I Let Go.
At the end of the evening, the show took on a socially conscious theme that was both heartening and thought provoking.
After the finale, kids where given the opportunity to take pictures with performers around the ring.
The UniverSoul Circus is a fantastic family friendly event for all ages. I hate that I did not bring my ninety-year-old grandfather with me.
My grandfather grew up in the 1930s. An era where blacks were not allowed admission to the circus until the very last day when performers where worn and animal waste was purposely left on the grounds to make a hurtful point to African American guests.
I am so proud to know that today, the UniverSoul Circus is black owned and operated and people of color are welcomed and encouraged to attend.
I hope that if you did not get a chance to see this show in Birmingham, you consider grabbing your loved ones and checking it out in another city.
Hopefully, this is not the last Birmingham has seen of the UniverSoul Circus and the Big Top will be erected again for the city next year!
Special thanks to my colleagues and partners at Access 205 for this opportunity and also photo credit to Rod Jon at biriminghamrador.net for his amazing photography.