Ringmasters, belly dancers and fire-eaters, oh my!

Yellow Springs gets freaky with Cirque Carnival

By Lara Donnelly

A performer from the fire performance group Soul Fire Tribe gets up close and personal at last year’s Cirque Carnival

A performer from the fire performance group Soul Fire Tribe gets up close and personal at last year’s Cirque Carnival

With Yellow Springs in the running for Rand McNally’s “Best of the Road” as the “most fun” town in America, people from far and wide want to know what makes this small town so out of the ordinary.

Friday, July 15 will be a good time to find out. This third Friday, Yellow Springs will wax fantastic with the Cirque Carnival, a dazzling spectacle of music, parades, face painting and performance. Organized by the Dayton Street Alliance, a coalition of Dayton street merchants, the Cirque Carnival highlights the shops, restaurants and residents of downtown Yellow Springs’ less frequented thoroughfare.

“It’s sort of a block party,” said Lara Bauer, one of the instrumental organizers of the Cirque Carnival. “We want people to get to know the shops on Dayton Street.”

Because the biannual Street Fair takes place mostly on Xenia Avenue, the Dayton Street Alliance wants to draw attention to their offerings, such as the Import House, Brother Bear’s Coffee and Super-Fly Comics & Games.

Last year’s inaugural Cirque Carnival was a fun trial run, but Bauer said that this year, the Cirque Carnival will be both exciting and charitable. The event will serve as a benefit for the Yellow Springs Kid’s Playhouse (YSKP), an all-youth theatre company that puts on an original production each summer. To promote their show, cast members from YSKP’s 2011 production, The Cotton Club, will perform a jazzy musical review on the Cirque Carnival main stage.

They’ll be in good company, too. The bands the Undercovered and Sport Fishing USA, of local fame, will also grace the main stage. Other stages sprinkled throughout the blocked-off streets will feature acoustic musicians like Acoustic Reveille and Jenny, Stills, Stash and Young.

Roaming performers and those who wow without instruments will fill intersections and sidewalks. “There will be improv dancing, aerial performers, and Egyptian Breeze!” said Bauer.

Michigan-based aerialists the Flow Fairies will amaze audiences with their glitzy LED hoola-hooping stunts and glittering costumes. John and Maria Booth will present an arresting spoken word performance. Renowned belly dance troupe Egyptian Breeze will captivate and inspire guests. All kinds of stunts and stories and silliness will crop up in the streets. The evening will close with an incendiary performance by Yellow Springs’ own Soul Fire Tribe, a professional fire performance group.

Astrea Taylor, one of the senior members of Soul Fire Tribe, has been setting things alight for nine years and said she loves performing with her troupe.

“What I love about performing with fire is that it’s expressive and mesmerizing,” she said. “The element of danger is mixed with the beauty of it and we strive to bring forth the elemental aspect with grace and fun.”

Soul Fire Tribe’s Cirque Carnival performance should be especially mesmerizing. Taylor said though Soul Fire Tribe has performed at many professional gigs in and out of Ohio, local shows are always where they have the most fun. They try to give back to the supportive community by making those shows some of their best.

“We’re planning a lot of exciting surprises for this performance,” said Taylor, “and we’re working hard to make it especially amazing.”

Soul Fire Tribe will begin their performance at 10 p.m. They will light up the street with fire poi, hula-hoops, fans, staffs, umbrellas and more. Taylor said Soul Fire Tribe always works to create a family-friendly atmosphere, with safe spaces for small children to sit and watch the fire, and songs with no crude language or suggestive themes. If the little ones are still awake by the time the sun goes down, they can enjoy the pyrotechnics along with everybody else.

On the whole, Cirque Carnival is a great place for kids. There’s a special area for a “kid’s carnival,” with face painting and games. The Cirque Carnival will even open with a parade just for kids. Participants should meet up at the kid’s carnival at 6 p.m. for the kickoff at 6:30 p.m.

“Kids are welcome to dress up in their favorite superhero outfits or fuzzy animal hats,” said Bauer.

Or whatever crazy costume suits their fancy. Adults are welcome to dress up too, in their old prom dresses, day-glo rave gear or, in keeping with the event, circus attire befitting a ringmaster.

“It’s a participation event,” said Bauer, encouraging guests to dress up and get their freak on. “Get out your shinies and your glitteries.” At Cirque Carnival, the crowd is the circus.

Reach DCP freelance
writer Lara Donnelly at


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