Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey can always be counted on for providing unique circus excitement, and for its 142nd edition of the show, it has decided to celebrate the Year of the Dragon by bringing the storybook fiery creature front and center.
The Patriot Center welcomes back the circus from April 10 to April 21 with the show revolving around mystical dragon lore and astounding acts of bravery and athleticism.
As the latest installment of the Greatest Show on Earth, dragons encompass circus performers from the farthest reaches of the globe in a never-before-seen blend of renowned spiritual and real-life legends.
Front and center of all the action is ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, a former opera singer who has been with Ringling Bros. for a tad under 15 years. He puts his past operatic skills to work throughout the circus, singing everything from the national anthem to start things off to “Do You Have the Dragon In You” at the show’s conclusion.
“It’s celebrating the year of the dragon and basically we scoured the earth for the top-tier talent as we always do to celebrate,” Iverson said. “The idea in the mind of this ringmaster is to make it a celebratory game, like the Olympics, celebrating all the attributes of the dragon—courage, strength, wisdom and heart.”
This year’s spectacle is as exciting as ever. The show features the Shaolin Warriors who execute intense and fearless Kung Fu martial arts dating back to the 5th Century, as well as the Torres Family who shatter all records by putting eight family members on specialized motorcycles in the Globe of Steel.
Then there’s the equestrian acrobat Cossack Riders, who mystify crowds with their horseback tricks and the American debut of tiger-trainer Alexander Lacey.
“Each performance pays tribute to the spirit and strength of the dragon,” Iverson said. “It amazes me how every year the producers and the creative team come together to create one innovative circus spectacular after another.”
Tara Ogren is a trapeze artist and aerialist with The Flying Caceres. A former studio art major at Florida State University, the 28-year-old always dreamed of being in a circus.
“I grew up doing gymnastics and at FSU, they have an extra-curricular circus and I started that and by the time I graduated I put a video on YouTube and one of the troupe members saw it and asked me to join,” she said. “I thought about being in the circus as a youngster but I never thought it could really be a possibility; it was just a fantasy.”
What’s special about this performance is the rigging, designed by troupe leader George Caceres, is four feet taller than the average trapeze setup allowing as many as four flyers at the same time—two on high bars and two below. This pushes the limits of what can be accomplished.
“We have a double decker flying trapeze and it’s very unique and keeps the action going so we can have four people going at the same time,” she said. “I also do a motorcycle high wire act where I do tricks underneath the bike as it goes along the wire.”
As part of their act, The Flying Caceres will present the wildly difficult forward triple somersault and the first worldwide attempt of a full twisting double bar-to-bar somersault.
“I love performing. When you come to a circus you are in another world and anything is possible,” Ogren said. “People do amazing things and you are pulled out of your everyday life and there’s nothing better.”
Of course, no circus is complete without the elephants, tigers and clowns and this year’s event gives audience members a chance to interact with all at a special All-Access Pre-show Party, which is hosted one hour before the circus begins and is free to ticket holders. The pre-show allows audience members to meet and take photos with performers, try on circus costumes, learn circus skills and have the chance to win a masterpiece painting by one of the Ringling Bros. artistic Asian elephants.