Detroit ‘Clownsss’ join UniverSoul Circus at Chene Park

Delores Flynn
Special to The Detroit News

Detroiter Sylvia Harris recalls sitting under the big top of the UniverSoul Circus, being enthralled by trapeze artists being thrown through the air and staring in awe at the show’s contortionists. She was even moved during one show to dance as a “Soul Train” line took place in the tent’s single ring.

“Everything was so precise that I was sitting there with my mouth open,” said the 53-year-old west-side resident who has seen the show twice. “Some acts have no nets underneath so you are constantly on the edge of your seat. And I love the interaction with the music and performers coming into the audience. It’s a circus but the adults have just as much fun as the kids.”

UniverSoul Circus brings its international cast of performers to Chene Park on Thursday for 24 shows through Sept. 20.

UniverSoul founder Cedric Walker says the family friendly show, founded 22 years ago in Atlanta, features music ranging from classical and hip-hop to Latin, daredevil motorcycle riders and synchronized zebras.

And in addition to the performers from such places as South Africa, Ecuador and China, this year’s version of the two-and-a-half-hour spectacle will include presentations by Detroit’s own “Fresh the Clownsss.”

The clown quartet promises to get the audience singing and dancing in the aisle during intermission and its Soul Karaoke performance. The act will involve four handpicked audience members belting out tunes like “Let it Go” from “Frozen.”

Donning dreadlocks, a Mohawk, spiked hair and an Afro along with colorful facial hair and a single dot for clown noses, group members can’t wait to show off their hip-hop dance moves before the home crowd.

“Whether you are 10 years old or 60, we will have you up on your feet laughing and grooving along with us. You never know what we are going to do,” said group leader Ira Smith, 29, who began his new career while working at a furniture store. Smith said the group includes 10 members. Four members — Smith, DeFonte Thomas, 23, Karief Walker, 30, and Darryl Harrell, 25 — are performing with the circus.

“We love to bring smiles to people’s faces, especially the kids,” Smith said.

Audience involvement is just one of the unique things UniverSoul Circus prides itself on, spokesman Hank Ernest said.

“Our performers are often in the crowds doing their acts, giving high fives and inviting people down to dance in our ‘Soul Train’ line. The closeness of the performers makes it exciting,” Ernest said. “It’s constant fun. And there is something for everyone to enjoy.”

Delores Flynn is a Royal Oak-based freelance writer.

UniverSoul Circus

Sept. 10-20

Chene Park,

2600 E. Atwater, Detroit

Tickets $16-35

Ticketmaster or call

(800) 345-7000