Tag Archives: Maggie Jenkins

UniverSOOOOOUUUULLLLLL Circus!

Why am I sweating like a slave? A fleeting moment of reflection hit me, as I stood there screaming at the top of my lungs, hooting and hollering with my kids (football style) under each arm. Whatever! I was sweating, but having a blast!

UniverSoul Circus

What was I doing? Guest blogging (actually twittering) at the UniverSoul Circus in Brooklyn last night, at their show in Prospect Park. My friend Denene posted the opportunity on her blog, mybrownbaby.blogspot.com, weeks ago, and I jumped at the chance to blog backstage. Kristin Parker, with Elemental Interactive (creative corporate storytellers) reached out to me a few days ago and set it all up.

Anyway, last night, I packed the kids and wife into the Jeep, and we headed to Brooklyn, the second stop of USoul’s New York leg of the tour. We were treated (celebrity-like) to a behind-the-scenes look at USoul’s operations, and a pre-show meeting with the acrobats, jugglers, performers and contortionists we would later see onstage.

These kids toss each other around with their feet.

These kids toss each other around with their feet.

The performers, from all around the world, were a moving community, touring ten months out of the year. I was struck by the complexity of the circus culture. Despite the different languages they spoke, their various cultures and backgrounds, they worked as a cohesive unit, supporting one-another. I was also struck by the number of children in the circus. The death-defying stunts (I was later to see) were being performed by children as young as 12!

'Zanti' means 'show-offs' - I wonder why.

'Zanti' means 'show-offs' - I wonder why.

My kids were especially excited to see the horses, elephants and tigers backstage, and I couldn’t wait for them to actually see the show. Our tour of the tiger cages was cut short by some guy (read: me) who wanted to get a photo with his kids and a baby tiger nearly swiped his dreds! After a 30 minute meet-and-greet, we were led to our seats under the big-top. 

The show started with a skit by Maggie Shirley Lillie Mae Francis Upshaw Jenkins and Nephew Lucky, the night’s hosts, who introduced James Brown and his Go-Go Dancers. They were followed by the Rough Riders, Shandong Foot Jugglers (troop juggles people), Ethopian Foot Juggler (girl juggles things) and the Wheel of Death. Each act was as electrifying as the last, and the energy of the night built to a dizzying crescendo.

After intermission, Maggie Jenkins and Nephew Lucky introduced the China Soul Flyers, the Caribbean Zanti Dancers, Stilt Walkers, Twisted Soul, Magic Cats and the Elephants. There were skits a-plenty and the DJ kept the house rocking all night.

While the whole night was awesome, the most exciting part of the night was for me unceremoniously un-circus-like. It was an old-school/new school battle, in which two couples went head-to-head, center ring, acting out the lyrics to old and new school songs.  

The new school songs were ‘Kiss Me Through The Phone,’ by Soulja Boy and ‘Shoulda Let You Go,’ by Keyshia Cole. The old school songs were ‘Cause I Love You’ by Lenny Williams and ‘I’m Telling You’by  Jennifer Holliday. Needless to say, old school rocked the house – literally. People (including your sweaty children-toting blogger) were up out of their seats screaming.

If you haven’t been to the UniverSoul Circus, I strongly urge you to go. Unlike Cirque Du Soleil, which is very refined, or Ringling Bros., which is your traditional circus-going experience, USoul is pure energy, start to finish (um…did I tell you I was sweating). But don’t take my word for it. See if for yourself.

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