When you think of a “circus” we all have preconceived notions of what that looks like. For some it is the memory of massive mammals like lions, tigers and elephants performing tricks with trainers who seemed to be filled with equal parts of bravery and maybe stupidity. But time and tendencies have changed so that the gentle giants that we used to love to see up close are protected and not put on display for our humanly entertainment.
Some people envision tightrope walkers high above our heads leaving us wondering how they possibly keep their toes on that tiny wire. Others conjure up images of clowns with big red noses riding a unicycle. Whatever you think you know about the circus and whatever memories you have of a Barnum & Bailey type event is about to be blown out of the water with a new-fangled, family-friendly aquatic adventure known as Cirque Italia.
Cirque Italia is the one-of-a-kind brainchild from European circus descendant, Manuel Rebecchi. He comes from a long lineage of circus performers, much like the Wallenda’s. His vision of a traveling circus includes 35,000 gallons of water, a rigorously vetted cast of interchanging performers and a ticket price families can afford. We had the opportunity to chat with Sarah Kessler, the Public Relations and Media Representative for Cirque Italia, about the uniqueness of the show.
SP: The show looks like something many of us have not seen before. How would you describe Cirque Italia to somebody unfamiliar with the event? Are there similarities to a typical circus?
SK: If you’re not familiar with our shows, the best way to describe the Water Circus would be an animal-free show, just focused on the extraordinary capability of human strength and talent. We have the traditional circus acts (i.e. juggling, contortion, aerial acts, etc.), but we combine these with our magnificent 35,000-gallon water stage that works as a digital curtain around the performers, marrying sound, light and colors with the individual performances. The water curtain controls each drop of water meticulously and adds another dimension to our shows which sets us in a class above all other traveling circuses. There are only two other stages in the world similar to ours – one is in Las Vegas, the other is in Dubai, but neither of those water stages are portable like ours are. Cirque Italia is lucky enough to have not one, but two of these magnificent water stages, and ours are even a step above the other two, as we are able to travel with them around the country!
SP: Can you discuss the history of Cirque Italia?
SK:Some history on Cirque Italia: Manuel Rebecchi is the creator and founder of Cirque Italia. He was born and raised in Milan, Italy. He spent his early part of his adolescence traveling throughout Europe with his late aunt Moira Orfei, the founder of the largest and most famous circus show in Europe: The Moira Orfei Circus. This is where he developed the foundation of his adoration for the circus. Manuel commissioned Ferrari in 2012 to custom fabricate the tents and equipment for the shows. The Silver Unit was such an enormous success, that plans began to emerge for opening a second show. Those plans came to fruition in 2017 when the Gold Unit made its premiere and began a tour in conjunction with the Silver Unit. A third show (Paranormal Cirque) was added just this past year (June 2018) and premiered right here in Palmetto. Paranormal Cirque is a different production from the Cirque Italia’s Gold and Silver Water Circuses – it doesn’t have a water stage, and it is a mix of cabaret, horror, illusion/magic and such. It is age-restricted and geared towards the more mature audience, as it contains adult-themed humor and language, whereas our Water Circuses are designed for all ages.
SP: I see you have two tours running, are they concurrent? How many performers can we expect to see?
SK: We have the two Water Circuses which run concurrent to each other (our Silver Unit premiered in Austin, TX for its 2019 tour, whereas our Gold Unit premiered in Melbourne, FL for its 2019 tour. We also have the Paranormal Unit, which kicked off their 2019 tour in Miami, FL with a three-week stent. The shows are usually performing in a different city each week, but sometimes we will stay in a city for an extended period of time depending on the city. The shows are Thursday through Sunday, and Monday they are packing up and heading to their next city to set up the tent and do it all over again! The shows tour 11 months out of the year. They are true road warriors! We have about 15 performers in each unit, plus crew. But our performers aren’t just performers – we’re a team, and they each work in different capacities within the show. So the person tearing your ticket at the door might be the same person you see performing a juggling act on stage or the person selling you cotton candy might be the same person you see flying through the air performing an aerial act. So each unit has about 40-50 people working together to construct the tent, work the electrical, lights, sound, sell tickets, work concessions, etc. We also have a street team which travels the same route, but arrives in the cities beforehand to market the shows.
Cirque Italia has upcoming shows in Punta Gorda, running February 7th through February 10th at the Marketplace, 100 W. Marion Avenue, Downtown Punta Gorda. For ticket prices and event times, please visit their FB page here.
Photos courtesy of Cirque Italia.