WASHINGTON PARK — The big top is back in Washington Park for the 17th year.
On Tuesday, in a warm-up for the main show, Ethiopian contortionists, Caribbean stilt walkers and Onionhead the Clown entertained a crowd ahead of Wednesday’s premiere performance of the UniverSoul Circus.
“It’s going to be a brand new show,” said ringleader Anthony “Tony Tone” Luewellyn.
Luewellyn has toured with the circus — which includes acts from Vietnam, Ethiopia and other countries — since joining in Atlanta in 2006. He said the “Dream Team” that opens the second half of this year’s nearly three-hour performance is one of his favorites of all time.
Luewellyn described how the group of three gymnasts from Gabon, South Africa, and the Republic of Guinea uses a simple seesaw to launch themselves into the air and land on each other’s shoulders and other feats.
The Dream Team was taking a break during the Tuesday evening warm-up, but a group of nine Ethiopian contortionists was chatting with the high-wire act and trying out a routine on the tightrope.
Luewellyn said that the days of running away to join the circus are over.
“Most of the acts come from circus schools,” he said, adding that UniverSoul’s acts are scouted from schools across the world. “Occasionally you’ll find someone raw on the street and bring them in to train them.”
The circus opens Wednesday night and runs through Oct. 6 in Washington Park. This year, the circus will stay in Chicago for a second round of performances at Union Park from Oct. 10 through Oct. 20.
Tickets range from $22-$42 and are available through Ticketmaster.