published Thursday, December 29, 2016
Dallas — The circus has gone to the dogs. At least the Lone Star Circus has in their 10th-anniversary celebration, La Fête, presented with Dallas Children’s Theater at Rosewood Center for Family Arts through Jan. 1.
It’s impressive to watch Christian Stoinev, a 2014 finalist of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, balance himself by one arm on a thin rotatable rod as he lifts his body upside down and performs acrobatic balancing maneuvers. There’s an agreeable humor to him that many acrobats lack. But when he’s joined by four-year-old Percy, the teacup Chihuahua, it pushes into hilarious as the teeny dog skitters along Stoinev’s muscular body while it contorts.
Then there’s The Pompeyo Family and their Amazing Rescue Dogs. Never seen a more excited bunch of mutts. These dogrobats jump rope, do paw stands, climb ladders and launch through the air, and dance, even duets and a canine conga line. Now based in Dallas, the Pompeyos’ rescue dogs come from shelters here and around the world.
Well-tuned humor elevates much of La Fête, and a warm sense of family seals it. The twins Megan and Morgan McKenyon, a double aerial hoop act called Circus 2wins, are local products of the Lone Star Circus School. The duo was fast and funny on the trapeze rings, boasting graceful aerial maneuvers laced with physical clowning. Part of the circus appeal is watching acts get themselves into binds and get back out again. Circus 2wins snagged the shimmering two-story backdrop of thin Mylar strips and never missed a beat, even if they ended the set tinsel wrapped. Evgeny Vasilenko’s slack-wire act teetered on the edge of control for a genuine thrill and lots of laughs. Imagine a handsome Buster Keaton goofing it up on a very relaxed high wire.
La Fête keeps you smiling, from humor and just the glee of seeing the crazy things circus performers think up to do with their bodies. Sasha Pivaral, a contortionist whose parents (Nelson Pivaral and Goulia Rozyeva) were in Lone Star Circus’ first holiday production, is already highly awarded in spite of being just 22. No wonder. While balancing upside down on one hand, she can shoot a bow and arrow with her feet and hit a target. AcroDuo, two blond Russian specimens of impeccable Aryanhood, perform hand-to-hand balancing to create Pilobolus-like sculptures without breaking a sweat or recognizing that some joints are not supposed to bend that way—but they do!
There are hula hoops that spin from neck and every limb (Anna Stankus), a dance duo that can execute a complete change clothes in a second (Evgeny Vasilenko and Anna Zgurovskaya), classic aerial ballet on a trapeze bar (Abigail Munn), and the charming ring juggling of “The Red Harlequin” Vladimir Tsarkov. All laced with the tart clowning of New York Goofs’ Slappy and Monday. With his quick improvisational wit and repartee, theater icon B.J. Cleveland, a regular at the Goofs’ monthly vaudeville shows at Pocket Sandwich Theater, proves to be the best ringmaster yet for the circus’ annual holiday show.