Photos by Shawn Nowlin
A typical week for Elena Stefanova consists of traveling across the country to perform various aerial acts to hundreds, frequently thousands, of people.
Last week, May 17 – 20, Stefanova, along with approximately 20 other Cirque Italia performers, entertained thousands of area residents under the big top in the Salem Civic Center parking lot. Show times were 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets ranged between $25-$50 for adults and $10-$45 for children.
Each show was approximately two hours long, and afterward, attendees got to meet the performers and take pictures.
“I could not believe what I saw at times,” said Steve Jones, a Salem resident who attended Sunday’s show with his two children. “The amount of dedication and commitment it takes to pull something of this magnitude off is not lost on me. These performers take the term ‘great athlete’ to another level.”
The first water traveling circus in the United States, Cirque Italia is “an Italian entertainment company that weaves together an old school majestic big top, white tent with modern and creative circus arts inside a magical world of water.” A 35,000-gallon water tank is controlled by fountain jets from start to finish.
Each act brought something different to the stage. Some were high-wire performers while others proved to be jugglers, contortionists and dancers. There were no performing animals, true to European tradition.
“Everything that we are able to do boils down to work ethic,” Stefanova said. “It’s a wonderful feeling when you work extremely hard at your craft and people genuinely appreciate it.”
Abbey Lawley joined Cirque Italia two years ago and said it is the best job she has ever had.
“This is very unique as it’s not like the traditional circus that crowds are used to,” Lawley, a host, said. “It’s a fusion of a Broadway/Las Vegas show with an addition of beautiful water effects! The artists are from all around the world and are known to take people’s breath away.”
Last week was not the first time that Karen Coleman experienced Cirque Italia in person. Like many other attendees, she has been aware of the water circus since its inception in 2012 by founder Manual Rebecci.
“What they do is beyond difficult. I don’t think even that I can pull some of these stunts off in my dreams,” Coleman said with a smile. “As an animal lover, I also appreciate how they just focus on the arts and technology, unlike other shows that I’ve attended.”
Roxana Midi, the Cirque Italia Ticket Office Manager, said Salem could not have been more hospitable. “The positive feedback we received was overwhelming. We encourage people to check out our cirqueitalia.com website for any questions they may have,” she said.
Cirque Italia employee Grecia Coronel is responsible for getting attendees to their seats and making sure they enjoy themselves during the show. “This was our first time in Salem, but it won’t be the last. We plan on returning next year with a brand-new show. This was certainly the best crowd we’ve ever had by far,” she said.