Meet the ‘miracle’ masters behind Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus

ENTB_Circus_1016

From Vaudeville to old medicine shows to Cirque du Soleil, America’s love affair with the circus has endured. And, for many, the one beneath the Big Top remains the most enchanting of all.

“There is a certain spirit of the circus that continues to attract people to the show even after 144 years,” says Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson. “People love a spectacle, and the idea of a miracle. Watching someone like my assistant Paulo fly through the air or perform these strenuous acrobatics impeccably, as a little person, it’s like a miracle.”

“His skills show how we can transcend our own limitations,” he continues. “The circus is like a world of miracles.”

Iverson has a commanding presence, standing at about 6’3″ — 6’6″ if he’s wearing his red, white and blue-sequined top hat. At his side, more often than not, is his 4-foot-tall Brazilian assistant and sidekick, Paulo dos Santos. The two are like peas in a pod. Almost unconsciously, in conversation, one will proudly tout the other’s skills, while the recipient of the praise smiles modestly in recognition. For the past three years the two have traveled, lived, practiced and performed together in 1,200 shows.

They’ll perform a few more here in Boston in “Dragons,” a two-and-half-hour show celebrating the Year of the Dragon, in which acrobats soar through the air; lions, tigers and elephants gallantly perform alongside their trainers; and countless men fearlessly enter what has appropriately been dubbed the Globe of Death.

Nearly 130 circus performers display their acrobatic skills and push what seem like superhuman extremes in an attempt to emulate the elusive dragon, whose attributes of courage, wisdom and strength are demonstrated in the incredible circus acts themselves.

“We have a great relationship that thrives on the fact that we both continue to teach each other new things,” says Santos, of his co-star. “We both have always dreamed of performing for audiences as large as we are now, and can’t be more grateful to have the opportunity to put on a show that makes so many people happy.”

It’s hard for Iverson and Santos to imagine a life without the circus. “The circus is truly a lifestyle. It’s all that we do, and who we are,” says Iverson. “We are a unique little community where everything revolves around the circus. We work together, we live together, and we travel together. We really are the things that we do in the show, there’s no acting.”

After 15 years with Ringling Bros., Iverson isn’t surprised that so many people continue to flock to the circus each year.

“There is something about authenticity that audiences respect,” he says. “Every year we continue to create an innovative circus spectacular.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Man under evaluation for alleged gun threat at…

A man who allegedly threatened to open fire in the building that houses the Los Angeles Times' headquarters was being held in custody for a mental evaluation.

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.