UniverSoul Circus

Register To Win VIP Seats at UniverSoul Circus

March 18 / Heritage Park / Simpsonville

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The UniverSoul Circus to headed to Heritage Park in Simpsonville March 17-22 and B93.7 is hooking you up with a family four-pack of VIP SEATS to enjoy the March 18th 7PM show! Register below for your chance to win!

What is the UniverSoul Circus?

It was 1993, and Cedric Walker had found his way to producing gospel plays and other productions for the urban community. One night during a late evening show in Pittsburgh, as he watched an adult rocking a toddler on his lap, he had an epiphany.

“I went to the playwright and said, ‘We have families coming here.’ And he said, ‘The issues in the play are issues that families have to face in our community. This is clean family entertainment for them,’” says Walker, who realized that urban families not only needed to see themselves presented accurately on stage, but also craved opportunities at family-friendly times of the day to enjoy live entertainment that would entertain multiple generations.

After much contemplation, Walker decided to find the right opportunity. The answer came to him during a pivotal conversation, when one of his industry colleagues suggested that he start a circus. The idea was like a lightning bolt–he couldn’t get back to the library fast enough to research everything from black Vaudeville performers to Ephraim Williams, who created the first black circus in 1894. A century after Williams’ accomplishment, with the support of his team of partners, Walker launched the Universal Big Top Circus, known today as UniverSoul Circus, which has become a global experience featuring phenomenal acts from around the world.

SERENDIPITY STEPS IN

From the moment the idea was out there, Walker had a feeling about the possibilities of starting a circus. As he worked on the concept he continued producing gospel plays, including playwright David Payton’s A Good Man is Hard to Find at Broadway’s Beacon Theater in New York City. On a seemingly routine day, Walker made his way to the spot where local radio station WBLS was hosting an African arts and cultural expo.“I was frozen, getting chills. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Walker recalls. What transfixed him was the sight of a booth with an exhibit presented by famed circus historian Robert Houston. Inside the booth were remarkable photos and memorabilia detailing the contributions of black performers in the circus industry.

It is that faith and determination that shaped the earliest part of Walker’s career. Live entertainment has been part of his life since he was an 18-year-old college student in Tuskegee, Alabama, when he took a job washing dishes in a nightclub to pay for school.

“I always say that I volunteered my way into a career,” muses Walker, who worked in lighting and production for acts like The Commodores, the Jackson 5 and various Motown artists. As funk music made its way onto the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he moved into stage management and promotion. In the mid-1980s, he produced the Swatch Watch NYC Fresh Festival with hip-hop giants like Run D.M.C., The Fat Boys and Grandmaster Flash. “For me, it’s about watching the audience. It’s amazing. When the Jackson 5 would hit the stage, the people would be in such a frenzy that the building would shake. You could feel the cement move,” Walker says.

“That interaction between the performer and customer was so intriguing. There was such a thrill in being involved with and watching that interaction.”

That special relationship with the audience is exactly what Walker wanted to bring to his circus.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

From the start, Walker wanted to take a different approach than the most well-known brands in the circus industry: Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which dazzled children with a grand spectacle, and Cirque du Soleil, which was geared towards adults with an artistic and dream-inspired style. His brand would focus on entertaining the family. And he had several ideas for bringing that vision to fruition.

“In the beginning, the title itself was Universal Big Top Circus. That was purposeful. This circus was going to be for everyone,” Walker notes. “It evolved into the UniverSoul Circus, but the concept was always global.”

To that end, Walker spends time every year scouring the globe looking for talented performers to join the UniverSoul Circus. Initially, he searched primarily for black performers, but he soon realized that there was a breadth of talent available in unexpected places—and that’s what his audience wanted. From South African and Chinese trapeze artists and Ecuadorian “Wheel of Death” performers to an Ethiopian contortionist group and Caribbean limbo artists, the acts Walker has discovered represent urban communities from around the world. Since its founding, more than 30 countries have been represented in the UniverSoul Circus.

“The energy is amazing with these acts from all over the world. There’s a carnival feel with different nations and cultures and dancing and music. You can feel the adrenaline. It’s simply amazing,” says Lucky Malatsi, who joined UniverSoul Circus as an acrobat from South Africa in 2000 and became one of the ringmasters in 2012. “But Cedric Walker isn’t just creating a show. He’s also changing lives. It’s incredible. From where I came from to where I am now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I live a better life now than I ever thought possible.”

“We get to share our culture with everyone and each member of the audience leaves with a message: that everyone belongs.

The UniverSoul Circus is for the people. It’s their show.”

FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING

As the circus continues to grow and evolve, so does Walker’s vision for it. “I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface. There’s this idea that the circus as an industry is declining, but I think the opposite. We’ve got a long way to go,” Walker states. “The circus is an experience and a reflection of social progress. And I’m always looking for what we can bring to the public that’s new. We will never stop growing. We are on the cusp of that wave all the time, and we are ever-evolving.”

Of course, there are times when Walker takes precious time to do what he has loved since he was 18 years old: look out into the audience. “It was like being in the shaking building with the Jackson 5 again. There was that energy level. I had to go to a space by myself upstairs in the tent and just cry. That emotion and passion lets you know you’ve done your job,” he concludes. “Those moments let you know that you’ve accomplished something. And as long as there are families, there will be circus.”