UniverSoul Circus: Not Only for Kids
Mary L. Datcher – Arts & Entertainment Editor
For one month, every year at the start of the fall season, part of Washington Park is transformed into a family-friendly dream. The Atlanta-based UniverSoul Circus takes Chicago by storm with the celebratory style of live entertainment of acrobatic and high-adrenaline performances.
It has become an annual outing for many families that find the circus conveniently located on the South Side, with easy access between the Bronzeville, Kenwood, Grand Crossing, Englewood and Washington Park communities. But attendees travel from across the Chicagoland to attend, entertaining both young and old with their unique brand of talent.
The circus features a multicultural line-up that includes a comedy Dog Act from Chile, Aerial Duet from Colombia, Pagoda Bowl Acrobats from China, Airborne Motorcycles from California, Caribbean Dynasty from Trinidad and Tobago, Russian Bar from Cuba, Contortionists from Ethiopia, Magical Tigers and disco dancing Elephants from the United States.
If you’re looking for the traditional circus where the animals are the focus point — well, UniverSoul is not that kind of show. Although the ensemble is from various countries around the globe, it heavily attracts a predominantly African-American audience, which over the years has gradually become more and more diverse. What makes this well-run, fine-tuned circus successful—audience participation.
From the very start of the program, the high-strung energy of its ringmaster, Lucky Malatsi, keeps the crowd pumped up, introducing each act while maintaining law and order. The South African native practically has grown up with the circus since he was 10 years old, performing with a contortionist act with UniverSoul Circus since 2000.
His special “hype man” style connects with the young kids and their parents, who are transformed into kids themselves for the next two hours. Throughout the show audience members are selected, pulled up into the center of the ring where parents get to showcase their dance moves.
Along with the help of Fresh the Clowns, the Hip Hop quartet is a top favorite of kids as they rock mohawks, afros and multicolored dreadlocks, giving new meanings to the “cool clown.” If you think your kid doesn’t know the latest Juju On Dat Beat, these guys will bring out their “ju ju” with a Beatles-like reaction from toddlers to teenagers alike.
Remove the kids, along with the youthful trendy dances, and you have a very sexy show. UniverSoul has creatively found a way to keep both kids and parents transfixed in a tasteful manner. No doubt, there is “eye candy” from the beautiful dance performances of Caribbean Dynasty dancers, to the sensual curves of Trinity (Balancing Hand Act) to the shirtless, attractive men of the Cuban Bar Act.
As Lucky and Zeke the Sidekick guide audience members throughout the show, the animals are still the real “rock stars” bringing out smiles and finger pointing from the little ones — from the cute comedy dog act, to the talented disco elephants who keep their extraordinary balance on circular stools.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch UniverSoul, the circus will run until Sunday, Oct. 30. But for those drivers who are on the city of Chicago boot list, then we highly recommend another form of transportation — the park is a hotbed for Department of Revenue vans.
Also, don’t get lured into buying the lighted Minnie/Mickey ears and other enticing toys for the shorties before entering the big top tent. They will not allow outside toys, beverages or food. So bring a few dollars, patronize the concession stands and remember — it’s truly all about the kids.