Beyond Vassar

A New Spin on Circus

By Micah Buis '02

Jonas Woolverton ’99 graduated knowing he wanted to be in the entertainment industry. A film production major, he said: “I was dead-set on the career path of a filmmaker. I worked my way up as an associate producer on award-winning films for HBO, MTV, PBS, and the Sundance Festival.” However, after working on a documentary about a group of traveling circus sideshow performers, Woolverton found himself wondering why he wasn’t in front of the camera rather than behind it. ”I kept having this feeling that I needed to return to the physicality of dance and theater, and the excitement of performing live.”

Certainly no stranger to performance—he danced in the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, hosted a Brazilian music show (he is half Brazilian) on WVKR, and sang and played accordion in a rock band called Circophonique—Woolverton decided to act on his passion and enrolled in the Clown Conservatory in San Francisco, the only professional clown training program left in the United States.

Following an intense year of training at the conservatory and a brief stint with San Francisco’s Pickle Circus, Woolverton joined the company of Cirque Eloize, a Montreal-based circus that has performed in over 20 countries and 200 cities worldwide. He stars in the production RAIN, singing, playing accordion, and performing with the Cyr Wheel, a spinning acrobatic apparatus, for two hours each night, along with 10 other cast members. “My character in RAIN is a romantic, a rake, a comedic Casanova,” said Woolverton. “I speak Brazilian Portuguese, sing in Italian—it really doesn’t get sexier than that!”

Woolverton received his training on the Cyr Wheel directly from its inventor, Daniel Cyr, and now considers it his specialty. Woolverton has also received a major grant from the government of Quebec to develop and research a new acrobatic wheel he has invented called the Acrosphere. And he intends to continue charting new territory in circus performance. “I look forward to creating a new circus company of my own one day—most likely a collective of fellow circus performers.”

For now, though, if you’d like to see Woolverton, watch for the U.S. tour of Cirque Eloize’s RAIN from January – April 2005 and also a run at the New Victory Theater in New York City, which begins in June. Click on for more information.