UniverSoul Circus brings death-defying stunts to National Harbor

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews UniverSoul Circus at National Harbor (Part 1)

You’ve heard of Soul Train, but imagine that same electric energy under a circus tent.

“I’m gonna get you to say UniverSoulllllllll Circus,” Founder Cedric Walker told WTOP.

UniverSoul Circus dazzles Plateau Parking at National Harbor now through Labor Day.

“It’s just a fantastic explosion of colorfulness and pageantry,” walker said. “It’s across the street from the Hampton Hotel at the top of the hill. It’s a traditional Canobbio tent, the same tent that Cirque du Soleil and Big Apple use … the whole thing about the tented circus is the nostalgia. The feels, the smells, the whole circus environment comes alive.”

Due to our new pandemic reality, the 360-degree tent will not be filled to capacity.

“The tent holds 2,300 people and we’re limiting our capacity to 1,500 seats,” Walker said. “No seat is a bad seat. You’re right there.”

New Orleans native and Atlanta resident Donald “N.O.” Long will serve as Ringmaster, alongside Sidekick Zeke of Atlanta and co-Ringmaster Cheyenne-Rose Dailey from Trinidad and Tobago.

“They are just electric,” Walker said.” They come out like a ball of fire.”

You’ll also see contortionists from Guinea; skaters from Cuba; daredevil motorcyclists from California, Colorado and Chile; a high-wire act from Colombia and Gabon; teeterboard drillers from Mongolia; a solo trapeze artist from Brazil.

“We went to each island and recruited the different acts so we could get the flavors of the whole Caribbean,” Walker said. “There are breathtaking moments where (an artist) from Brazil is walking in the air upside down on an apparatus with his feet only and no net under him. He gets to the other side, swings on a single trapeze, then leaps to another trapeze with no net, 50 feet in the air.”

There’s also plenty of comedy, including Fresh the Clownsss from Detroit, Michigan.

“Our clowns are hip-hop energy, funky dance, just a different energy from our clowns,” Walker said. “We’ve got an opening number with puppet stilt walkers … the comedy table is a pizza parlor where the workers are just not doing their jobs and the head pizza guy is flipping them around … the precision and the comedy of it all is like The Three Stooges live in the ring.”

Talented trained animals also get in on the act, including Trick Rescue Dogs from the Pompeyo Family of Colombia, Russia and America; a Cossack Horse Act with riders from Russia, Guinea, Mexico, Gabon, Trinidad, and Kyrgyzstan; and a mixed animal act from Santiago, Chile.

“There’s a fast-moving puppy act that kids just love,” Walker said. “A fast-paced, trick-riding, flipping on and off the horses, stacking four men high, going under the horse while it’s going at 30 miles an hour around the ring, going around the horse’s neck … then our mixed animal act, the array of camels, zebras and llamas just makes a pleasant choreography of movement.”

Overall, it’s just a fun night out for the family.

“You’re gonna have a great time,” Walker said. “The energy of it, the laughter, the fun, the relief, the positive messaging, it’s a family attraction and it’s geared toward families … it’s just a fantastic explosion of colorfulness and pageantry.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews UniverSoul Circus at National Harbor (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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