Living the Life of a Circus Performer-Jon Weiss from Circus Vargas

“Magikaria, A Fantastical Magical Experience!” presented by Circus Vargas has the thrilling elements of mystery, magic, and music.  The show showcases top notch industry professionals with family focused familiarity of fun and personal connection under the big-top now at the Irvine Spectrum from May 30 – June 10, 2013.

clownsPrint_0569In a world where people can get lost in technology generated entertainment or eight hour jobs it is refreshing to have the senses be triggered into producing contagious laughter or eye popping astonishment as you spend time with the Circus Vargas family and your own.

The show includes flying trapeze artists, jugglers, dancers and acrobats that all move with a riveting vibrancy of motion locking audience gazes as they defy gravity and master tricks.  In addition, the show features a ringmaster with Broadway singing and clown antics that are never scary but endearingly comical.  Don’t miss the motorcycle globe daredevil family or the human rocket where a performer is fired “75 feet in less than 4 seconds.”  The elaborate illusions will awaken your imagination and leave you wanting more.  The performers come from all over the world to share well-honed performing and technical artistry, their life and their love with you.

I had the opportunity to chat with Jon Weiss, circus extraordinaire who shared with me some of his experience of living life in the unique context of the circus.  Jon’s superstar career of being shot out of cannons, balancing objects and clowning around is made richer because of the love he shares for his job, community and family.  His multitalented based career and life including an impressive finish on season four of “The Amazing Race” and numerous television appearances spanning decades has made history, but he never loses site of making memories with his family.  Along with his wife Laura, they serve as hosts for the pre-show and Jon demonstrates mind-boggling balance using his “iron chin.”  Below Jon shared with me highlights from his career and living life with Circus Vargas.

What is the pre-show?

Basically we are inviting you into our home.  The pre-show that I do starts 30 minutes before the show so kids get to come in the ring with their parents and we teach them how to do circus stuff and expose them to what it is like in the ring.  After you try some of the balancing and juggling you will see the professionals actually perform it in the show.  You get a different feel for what it is like to do what they do.  I think it is also good in regards to being able to try different things.  When performers perform they make things look easy because they are highly trained and they make it look effortless.  For the pre-show we also bring our kids out there to do magic and stuff, it’s cool.

How is the show made affordable for everyone?

Here at Circus Vargas everyone wears many different hats.  Like on Monday night when we tear down the big top we all do it.  We make going to see our show affordable and efficient by running our business efficiently.  You will see the girls in the box office are also the trapeze artists and dancers in the show.  Our juggler works at the concessions.  When you see us set it up we all look like a bunch of laborers setting up a construction site so you don’t know who is who.  The funny thing is that if you get to meet us on a set up or a tear down you will think that we look familiar-that might have been the juggler or the daredevil or the clown because we all do it.

Does Circus Vargas feature magic every year?

The magic is unique to our show this year.  Magikaria means that there is an air of magic inside the big top whether it is the magic of the circus itself, the illusions that we present, we just say there is an air of magic.

What makes performing for you in Circus Vargas special?

For me performing in Circus Vargas is very intimate.  It is about creating that experience or that memory.  When everything is said and done in our lives it is the experiences and memories that we keep with us.  I think that is extremely important and for me to know that when I perform and work that I will be a part of someone’s memory is incredible.  The first show is no different than the last show with high energy.  No matter if there are 100 people out there or 1,000 people out there it does not make a difference.  They all expect a great show!

How has the circus experience evolved over the years?

The experience is different now from when I was a kid.  When I was a kid and went to the circus with my family we sat in the nosebleeds that were very far away and saw little specks on the floor because we were in the big arena environment like Madison Square Garden.  Now, you get to meet and talk to performers, get pictures and autographs and that is an experience that goes a long way.  I never lose sight of that when I work or perform and I want to make the experience memorable and great for everyone.  I think that is what we do really well here at Circus Vargas.

Do you have a circus memory that you can share ?

Talking about Madison Square Garden, it was 1986 May 2nd prior to a circus performance with over 5,000 people in the audience that day and it was the day I got married to my wife.  I was in full clown makeup and my wife was a dancer at the time.  I arrived in a clown car, the ring bearer was a bear, the bridesmaids were elephants and we rode off on an elephant.  We renewed our vows two more times after that.  We have been together since 1980, met in high school then I ran away to the circus, went to clown college and then she joined the following year as a dancer.  We never thought that we would make a career or life out of it and here we are over thirty years now enjoying the lifestyle with our kids and other families.

Can you describe the circus lifestyle and family?

To us as circus performers we travel with our families and kids.  It is a lifestyle, we don’t even think twice of it—going out there shooting out of a cannon or balancing a heavy object on your chin—it’s just our job and what we do.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously—it’s very important.

JonBalancingLife goes by very fast so the important thing is that you are able to share these memories and do things with your family.  I have the utmost respect for the people that have been doing this for years or generations.  I am only the first generation and was a civilian for 18 years before I joined the circus.  My three kids are already the second generation.  I fell in love with the lifestyle and the people and I was meant to be a real circus performer.  Anybody can put a costume on or clown makeup on but what do you really bring to the table?  Are you here for the right reasons?  It is about being in the circus and giving 100% and being part of this community?  I think what Circus Vargas does very well is that it is getting the right people for the right job.  They may know 50% of the business but the other 50% is their people skills, their ability to communicate and work together.

What makes a good performer?

The thing about a real good performer is that certain things you can teach and certain things you can’t teach—you have to have it from within.  That is how I got involved with the circus because I naturally have the ability to balance things that was molded into being a circus performer.  A lot of the circus people do the same thing but it is how it is presented.  How can you present something where you bring the audience into your act, make eye contact or do something special?  A lot of people do the triple somersault on the trapeze but it is not presented how it is presented here.  As a performer you have to look at it as how can I do it better, more consistent and how can I bring the audience in to enjoy the experience?  That’s a lot of fun when you can do that.

Besides being home-schooled, do the circus kids get to learn circus skills?

One of the great things about the circus is that you have some of the best people here in the business such as Olympian athletes or people trained in dance and acrobatics.  We do have classes where the kids take strength and training, gymnastics, and dance after school in the big-top which is great where we don’t have to drive them anywhere.  This is our community.  As you can see we have it setup with a fence and our back lot.  The location changes but the way we live our life stays the same which is unique.  The kids know they can’t go outside the compound and we have a lot of pairs of eyes around here.  Everyone looks out for everyone.

Can you share a Circus Vargas tradition?

We have a block party every Saturday night.  Tonight after the last show we all convene here in the midway where we have a big party.  We barbecue, socialize and bring a dish.  The great thing is that we have people from all different countries and nationalities where everyone brings a different dish.  It is an international buffet, German, Bulgaria, Kenya, Peru and the Argentinians who own the show bring all the meat.  We want to keep these traditional things alive because the kids and adults look forward to it.

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Thank you to Nelson and Katya Quiroga-Tabares with Tabares Entertainment, Inc. who are the circus owners and impresarios that continue to bring a unique live show to a city near you.  I am humbled by the circus camaraderie and community that work together as a collaborative ensemble and family.

Bring your family and friends to be entertained by the Circus Vargas family at “Magikaria, A Fantastical Magical Experience!”  Don’t miss sharing memories that will last a life time.  The show will run from May 30 – June 10 at the Irvine Spectrum (115 Fortune Drive Irvine, CA 92618) and will travel to Woodland Hills and Santa Barbara.  Please check-out show times and purchase tickets by clicking here or in person at the box office.  Look for the blue and yellow big-top!

The show is two hours with a 15 minute intermission allowing time to buy and enjoy tasty concessions including popcorn, cotton candy and cool drinks to take in with you.  Don’t forget to buy a program where the performers will sign it after the show and take pictures with you.

Tuesday Tunes: “Healing in the Heartland: Benefit Concert”

Blake Shelton is spearheading efforts to mobilize the music industry into making a positive difference for those affected by the Oklahoma tornado that took place last week.  Tomorrow there will be a benefit concert at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City airing on NBC and Bravo to help garner relief support.  According to NBC, the funds raised will be directed to the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund.  Performers will include Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Ryan Tedder, Usher and Darius Rucker.

“Everyone has their way to help, and mine as an entertainer is to perform to help raise money and awareness for this tragedy,” said Shelton in NBC’s press statement. “This is why I want to do this special and especially hold it in Oklahoma City, which is near ground zero.”

Check local listings for Wednesday May 29.             9 p.m.-10 p.m. on NBC and 11:30 p.m.-12:30 p.m. on Bravo.

The video above  features Blake Shelton and wife Miranda Lambert dedicating their song “Over You”  to Oklahoma.  Shelton is one of the four coaches on Mark Burnett’s singing competition “The Voice” on NBC.  The Voice’s live voting performance shows will announce the elimination of two more singers tonight leaving a top six to perform next Monday.

Thank you to all the everyday courageous heroes rescuing, protecting, helping, encouraging and generously giving their time, prayers,energy and money to show love when it is needed most.  Everyone can make a difference.

National Tap Dance Day

Happy National Tap Dance Day!

Tap dance will always be my favorite dance style where you can create rhythmic music with your feet.  Some of the greats of the past such as Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, the Nicholas Brothers and Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers etc. have paved the way for tap dancing today.  It was thanks to many of them such as Bojangles with Shirley Temple that I had fun tap dancing anywhere—down the escalator, up the stairs, down the market aisle, or up on furniture.

Tap dancing has evolved with the times to incorporate more than just tap dancing on furniture but on a construction set, on televised dancing competitions and in animation.  Dancers are able to incorporate the athleticism, style, technique and class of the past with modern twists.

Tap Dogs: One of my favorite tap groups taking the art to a new level.  Below are the original dogs.

So You Think You Can Dance: Nick Young, Matt Flint and Jess LeProtto perform a tap routine paying homage to the great tap dancers.

Happy Feet:  Animated film with penguins tapping.  The brilliant Savion Glover helped provide the cool moves.

Look out for the commercials that feature tap dancing too!

Shaping Sound Tour-Artistry in Motion

“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you.  That’s where I’ll be waiting.” –J.M. Barrie

Shaping Sound’s live dancing tour kicked off this past weekend in Los Angeles.  The company emerges from the visions of Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson who may seem familiar from appearances on “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing With the Stars” and the reality TV show based on them “All the Right Moves.”  The company has quickly become known for their fierce and fresh artistry intermingling contemporary with jazz, modern and hip-hop.

I had the opportunity to attend the red carpet premiere performance in Los Angeles.  It was nice to see the dance community come out to support them.  Familiar faces in the audience included Adam Shankman, Carrie Ann Inaba, Paula Abdul, Stacey Tookey, Heather Morris, Lance Bass and many SYTYCD dancers.  The cheers and thunderous applause from family, friends and industry professionals made the performance even more special.

The dancers are visual musicians bursting with movement quality that hooks into love existing between being asleep and awake.  The show cleverly sticks to this theme by giving each member of the company a character or title to embody.  For instance Nick is the Wayward, Travis is the Past, Teddy is the One, and Kyle the Beloved.

Travis’s signature dance phrases or sequences of twists, lifts and turns are made even better with the full use of the stage and light direction.  The lights and moveable props add levels that highlight every pulsating tick of the head to the collapsed releases.

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images

The entire show has beauty with seamless transitions.  Jamie Goodwin as the Dreamer truly fulfills her role with the resistance filled extensions and emotion.  The company breathes as one making moments shine for the pure communication with each other and the music.

There are upbeat and powerful songs used such as “Sing, Sing, Sing” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” with more haunting melodies.  The show finds the perfect pacing and story vehicle to take you on their journey.

Executive Producer, Gil Stroming from Break the Floor Productions has delivered explosive entertainment proving why he is a leading dance entrepreneur.

Catch the rest of the tour coming through the United States.  Click here.

 

Tuesday Tunes: Inspiring Music and Musicians-Zach Sobeich

The story of Zach Sobeich and his inspirational story of how he infused songs with his life and thoughts after being diagnosed with terminal cancer is a reminder of valuing every moment.  The video “My Last Days” documenting slices of life that celebrate connection highlight relationships that are truly loving.  Interviews with Zach, his family and girlfriend are such gifts filled with honest unmasked truth.  Their intimate boldness delivered straight into camera is delivered straight to my heart.  “You don’t have to find out you’re dying, to start living.”

His songs from Zach’s band “A Firm Handshake” take on extra special meaning since his years on this earth came to an end yesterday.  Zach chose to be a fighter and deliver some of his story with simple lyrics.

Watch the documentary below:

 

May Mondays: Moments and Musings

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

HAPPY MONDAY!

Giant Allium flowers aka Truffula flowers inspired by Dr. Seuss

Star Trek and TV Connections/New Shows

The networks have been announcing their television show lineups for 2013-2014.  Many shows sound interesting like “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” on ABC.

It is nice to see some Asian faces cast whether that be John Cho in Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” Kenneth Choi in NBC’s “Ironside,” Kelly Hu in CW’s “The Hundred”, Aaron Yoo in CW’s “The Tomorrow People,” Jamie Chung in NBC’s “Believe,” and Ming-Na Wen in ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” to name a few.

John Cho can be recognized by many to be the character Sulu in Star Trek movies.  The latest “Star Trek Into Darkness” can be now seen in theaters.

For fans of the Star Trek series, it may be interesting to know many of the shows for 2013-2014 has a Star Trek connection.  For instance, “Sleepy Hollow” not only has John Cho but is from the writers and executive producers of Star Trek.  John Billingsley from “Star Trek: Enterprise” is in CBS’s show titled “Intelligence,” Karl Urban known as Bones in Star Trek stars in Fox’s show titled “Almost Human.”

“Star Trek Into Darkness” director J.J. Abrams is the Executive Producer behind NBC’s mid-season “Believe” along with Bryan Burke who serves as a producer on Star Trek.  J.J. Abrams is also the Executive Producer behind Fox’s “Almost Human.”  The Executive Producer behind the new show “Intelligence” is Rene Echevarria known for the involvement in the Star Trek television series.

The connections between these mentioned new series are indicative of the type of stories, tone and audience that the new television shows will attract.  Therefore, if you are a Star Trek fan you might just like “Almost Human,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Believe,” or “Intelligence.”  The show descriptions lead me to put them in the drama, sci-fi, action, fantasy, thriller, good vs evil category which can relate to Star Trek.

Descriptions below are taken directly from buddytv.com

Almost Human: Premise: In 2048, cops are partnered with humanoid robots. This futuristic buddy cop show centers on an out-of-control human and his slightly crazy robot partner.   (Late Fall on Fox, Mondays at 8pm)

Sleepy Hollow: Premise: Retelling of the classic tale with Ichabod Crane transported 250 years to the future to prevent the destruction of the world by solving a mystery that goes back to the Founding Fathers.   (Fox, Mondays at 9pm)

Believe: Premise: A little girl with special powers is protected by an ex-con from people who would use her abilities for evil.    (NBC, Sundays at 9pm mid-season)

Intelligence: Premise: A federal agent has a microchip implanted in his head that allows him to access phone records, the Internet and all electronic frequencies to fight crime.   (CBS Mondays at 10pm mid-season)

“24” fans might be thrilled knowing that the series is being brought back for 12 episodes airing in May 2014.  Brannon Braga (creator of “Star Trek: Enterprise”) and Manny Coto (“Star Trek: First Contact”) wrote many episodes of “24.”

For people in the industry castingabout.com has a nice list of the network up-fronts. Get deadline’s TV grid with the new shows in red-here.

In the meantime, while you are waiting to see the new television shows, check out “Star Trek Into Darkness”  in theaters officially opening tomorrow.

The Fantasticks at South Coast Repertory Theater (Costa Mesa, CA)

The Fantasticks is indeed fantastic involving two teenagers in love, good-hearted yet manipulating fathers and curious circus players.  Throw in the carnival theme, magic tricks, a little bit of swordplay and live music and you got me hooked.  It’s a musical!

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The rhythmic dialogue combined with the delightful songs cleverly disguises some messages that slip into your consciousness amidst the laughs and magic.  For instance, the second act that takes a slightly darker turn shows how love can transform with the passage of time and lessons sparking growth.

The show takes the leap from two teenagers wallowing in superficial and narcissistic folly to finding truth in having some worldly experience behind them. Trade fantasy for reality and naivety for some maturity.

Just like magic, romanticized love and the world are not always what they seem.  The magic used in the show is marvelous with many tricks making you look twice to wonder how it was done.

It was a joy to see all the actors fill their roles, especially SCR’s theater favorites Richard Doyle as the bumbling Henry and Hal Landon Jr as the straight man-Mortimer.  SCR audiences may know them as The Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”

I remember learning the Michael Checkov technique from Hal that included the use of a psychological gesture and movement quality.  Hal’s comedic dying in the show makes me wonder what preparation he used this time.

The show’s use of space and movement is delightful.  Special moments from the mute like creating the wall separating the two lovers help tie everything together.

Overall, the show is entertaining full of both substance and heart.  Go see the show and get hooked and hoodwinked.  To buy tickets click here.  The musical runs through June 9 with an opening this Friday!

May Mondays-Moments and Musings

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”-― L.M. Montgomery

Hope you have a refreshing week where you can experience joy in celebrating every moment.

Photos below are from Jordan Matter Photography-“Dancers Among Us

Tomorrow is the 300th episode of “Dancing With the Stars” on abc and the Season 10 premier of “So You Think You Can Dance” on Fox.