Family Circus: Our trip to UniverSoul Circus this weekend

Universoul Circus
(Phalatda Taysavang/Courtesy Universoul Circus)

I usually spend my weekends resentfully cleaning my house and grumbling about how everyone thinks I'm the maid, but this past weekend, my family and I went to the UniverSoul Circus—which has been around since 1994 and makes a priority of showcasing performers of color—instead.

As my mother-in-law, my two children (7-year-old Grace and 9-year-old Cameron), and I walked up to the tent, located outside Security Square Mall near the Macy's entrance, I wondered if the kids would like it. The only other circus they've been to is the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus at Royal Farms Arena, and that is just a bigger, more enveloping experience.


I think the kids liked UniverSoul more than Ringling Bros. because it's so small—just one ring—it's not as much of a sensory overload, and there really isn't a bad seat in the house. Another byproduct of visiting a small circus: the food prices weren't exorbitant. The most expensive item on the menu was cotton candy for just $7. They also offer wings, funnel cake, and popcorn, all for $6, among other snacks.

We loved the dance breaks, which at one point featured music for each age group (a trap version of the "Little Einsteins" theme for the kids, Migos for the millennials, New Edition's 'If it isn't Love,' for my age group, and some Aretha for the grandparents in the audience). The motorcycle riders, who did jumps across the ring on their bikes, an agile couple who danced in roller skates, and a graceful acrobatics group from China were also big hits.

My kids also loved the animals, which was a little awkward for me because, well, do we really still need animals performing for humans in a circus? The animals here—two elephants, camels, zebras, horses, and a pony are not used a lot—but it would be nice to see UniverSoul focus more on their amazing human-based acts and consider phasing their four-legged friends out, like Ringling was forced to do with their elephants.

Also, in the interest of #journalism, I interviewed Cameron and Grace about our trip a few days later. Here's how that went:

CP: Grace, did you like the circus the other day?

Grace: Yes.

CP: Why?

Cameron: [interrupting] Also, it was really good and my name is Cameron, I'm awesome at everything.

Grace: I liked when the motorcycles—

Cameron: [interrupting again] and I liked the horsie too, it was adorable!

Grace: And the pony was the most adorable-est one.

CP: Did you like when the people were dancing with the crowd?

Grace: Yeah. I liked the clowns.

CP: Why?


Grace: Because—

Cameron: I liked the clowns because they can dance!

CP: Did you like the music that they played?

Both: Yes!

CP: That song that you like? What's that song about the rollie?

Grace: I liked when we got popcorn and when we got our picture taken with the clown and when the clown got a picture with somebody else but then the person ran away. And when he lady was dancing with the host.

CP: Would you go back to the UniverSoul Circus?

Grace: Yes.

Cameron: Yeah! It was awesome!

CP: So, what did you first think when I told you we were going to the circus?

Grace: I thought that you were lying.

CP: What?!

Cameron: [laughs]

CP: Why?

Grace: Because you always say we are going somewhere but we don't really go.

CP: When did that happen?!

Grace: Hmm.

Cameron: I don't really remember anything about that happening.

Grace: I don't know.

Cameron: Bruh.

CP: Do you think we should do more activities on the weekend?

Grace: Yeah!

CP: Why?

Grace: Because I want to go to the circus again. And every day of the week.

CP: Did you tell your friends you went to the circus when you went to school?

Grace: I kinda had to.

CP: Why?

Grace: Because my teacher she said we had to say something we did over the weekend. OK, the interview is over. Cut!

The UniverSoul Circus is in Woodlawn until June 18. Go to for information about tickets and show times.