|Acrobatic and gymnastic feats displayed at circus|
|Written by Ariana M. Taylor, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Sunday, 22 April 2012 13:34|
Children and adults crowded the Redbird Arena lobby Saturday afternoon as they held their purchases of souvenir programs, buttery popcorn, magic light wands, and animal-shaped balloons. As show time approached, audience members quickly claimed their seats and eagerly waited for the flips and tricks to begin.
Ring Master Tom Sochowski energetically opened the event by welcoming everyone to the 81st annual Gamma Phi Circus at ISU. His all-white suit with a red vest, handkerchief, and bow tie is merely the beginning of the dapper outfits seen throughout the performance.
Sochowski said he is no stranger to the Gamma Phi Circus as he has served as the ring master for 25 years. He added that he has the benefit of “seeing the smiles of the audience members as the performance goes on.”
“I started as a freshman in ’87 … A friend of mine from high school, [who is] a couple years older [than I], was with the Gamma Phi Circus. They needed a new announcer because the old announcer decided not to do it anymore,” Sochowski said. “He knew I was a broadcast major so he said, ‘Why don’t you come out and tryout,’ and it took off from there. [I enjoy] interacting with the crowd, and just looking out and seeing the thousands of people and the kids.”
The opening act amazed the audience, as a transparent wall, securely placed between two trampolines, was utilized by the talented performers. The skilled gymnasts ran up the wall simultaneously on both sides, as they crossed over and flipped off onto the trampolines effortlessly.
The students continued to demonstrate their skillfulness in large numbers, as well as individually. The dual trapeze act appeared to be one of the audience’s favorite, as they sat nervously on the edge of their seats. The two performers — male and female — within the act exemplified strength and poise, while they hung from the short, horizontal, and highly-elevated bar.
Cornell Freeney, junior elementary education major, was one of the performers in the dual trapeze act. Although every twist, turn, and drop was done with expert precision, he explained that experience is not required to be a member of the Gamma Phi Circus.
“You don’t have to have a lot of experience coming in. We train you to do what we want to see. So throughout the whole year that’s what we’re doing. We’re [even] teaching some former gymnasts … it doesn’t matter what you were, just as long as you come in with a good attitude and you’re willing to learn,” Freeney explained.
Prior to intermission, the tightwire walkers amazed the crowd. As the females performed in their glittery one-piece costumes, they executed perfect splits on the 5/8 of an inch thick wire. The males also illustrated their aptitude while riding a unicycle across the wire and also jumping rope.
Jasmine Yu, sophomore elementary education major, performed in many acts including tightwire. She said “organization and good time management” helps her balance being a student and a performer.
“We have practices every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights and there’s also open gyms we can come to so that we can work on our tricks and individual [as well] as group acts. So basically it’s a lot of work we have to put into [the circus] and a lot of extra time if [there’s a] need for it,” Yu said. “I always make sure that I am ahead of schedule [with] my assignments and test so that I make sure I can balance and get everything done before practice because sometimes practice can run really late.”
The Gamma Phi Circus exemplified its uniqueness as it implemented child performers, as well as a well-trained Chihuahua, also known as Scooby, who waved to the audience as he accompanied a one-hand balancing act. The performers’ neon-colored apparel glowed as they broke out into a choreographed dance, and the crowd-pleasing event concluded with an incredible Russian swing act.
Marcus Alouan, director of Gamma Phi Circus, explained that to create a successful circus, it takes effort on the student’s part, support from the university, and hours of practice. He added that the circus has been around since 1929 and he is thankful for this year’s attendees.
“We’re just so glad that Bloomington–Normal showed up in force for our shows. This has traditionally been our smallest show and I think this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for a matinee. So we’re so happy to have [everyone],” Alouan said.