It may be rare for a circus to come to the ’Burg (rather than the bigger cities to the north and south), but this weekend, the big top tent of Cirque Italia will be raised at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds and the astonishing feats of its aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, daredevils and illusionist will be on display for all to see.

Not only does the show embody the essence of the circus, which has held allure for children and adults throughout the decades, it heightens that old-time excitement with cutting-edge technology of lighting and special effects. Dubbed the “Water Circus,” it will incorporate a 35,000-gallon water tank and sprays of a water curtain with patterns that are synchronized with music and a spectrum of colors to highlight the action. This is one of only three such stages that exist in the world.

Offering an experience that is sure to generate conversations and spark memories of parents and grandparents, Cirque Italia’s Water Circus, itself, is permeated with the spirit and close-connection of “family.”

“Most of our performers come from a multigenerational circus family with a strong performing heritage. We have fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-generation performers under our tent,” said spokesperson Sarah Kessler. “And, just like a family, all of our performers serve in other capacities and functions, doing whatever needs to be done. The people you will see flying on a trapeze or jumping rope while spinning astride the Wheel of Death might be selling your ticket or scooping popcorn. No one thinks, ‘That’s not my job.’” In addition, the lineup includes husband-and-wife acts, brother acts, and sister acts, and many performers have family members who travel with the circus and serve as part of the crew.

Featuring the premier performers from countries across the globe, Cirque Italia is the epitome of multiculturalism, and even the crew members on each unit are from various countries and backgrounds. Performers—including jugglers, a contortionist, slack wire and Chinese pole artists, aerialists, and a master of the “Wheel of Death”—hail from such countries as Romania, Argentina, Cuba, Italy, Brazil, Hungary, Mexico, Colombia and Portugal.

One performing couple is an example of multiculturalism to the max—Anita and Karchy (Karoly) Zeman (who travel with their son and daughter, pit bull, cat and five chihuahuas). The Zemans met 25 years ago while performing at the same circus in Ireland. Anita, who hails from Portugal and is a fifth-generation circus performer, had come from a circus in France. Karchy, whose homeland is Hungary and is a third-generation circus performer, had been performing with a circus in England.

Karchy and Anita, both 45, have boundless energy and perform three acts in every production.

The Zemans’ roller-skating act (once featured on “America’s Got Talent”) is breathtaking, both in its grace and speed as well as the heart-pounding element of risk when Karchy spins Anita by her legs as her head circles just inches above the floor. Their BMX performance begins by taking the audience back to the early 1900s, with the couple dressed in period garb—Karchy, with his top hat, astride an old-fashioned high-wheel bicycle. But, in short time, Anita presents him with a modern BMX bike which launches his act of mesmerizing spins and stands. Perhaps most surprising and fascinating of all is the Zemans’ “Quick Change” act, in which Anita repeatedly enters an opaque tube and immediately emerges in an entirely different costume. The Zemans have been performing together for 25 years and their skills have been honed through years of dedicated practice.

While circus life is permeated with excitement of world-class talent and unforgettable magical moments, Anita said that behind the scenes it is also a virtual traveling neighborhood.

“Our kids play together and we watch one another’s children. We all help one another and may even borrow an ingredient for a recipe we are cooking,” she said.

“The circus has something for everybody of every age,” said Karchy. “It’s a bonding experience for families, and the audience is not passive. With no seat in our tent more than 40 feet away from the stage, the performers and audience members can see each other’s faces and feed off the energy of the dynamic that goes on between them. The experience can be a treasured family memory.”

Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.

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