Some families bond over board games, others over movie nights; a rare few bond by juggling each other with their feet in front of astonished thousands-fold crowds. Meet the Poema family, a clan of circus performers who will be bringing their gravity-defying act to Circus Vargas at Earl Warren Showgrounds on June 11-15.
Led by father Adrian, the Poemas perform the rare Risley Acrobatics, in which one performer lies prostrate and vaults a somersaulting partner into the air using his or her feet. The art dates back several centuries, and the Poemas are only one of a handful of acts around the world who have mastered it.
“I started performing around 3 years old, and the act I perform with my kids is the same act I performed with my father, and my father did it with his father, and so on,” said Adrian, whose ringleading roots date back to the 1600s. So do those of his wife, Nellie, whose family hails from the Royal Hanneford Circus, one of the world’s oldest circuses.
“It’s a very special tradition that gets passed on from generation to generation,” said Adrian. “It’s not something you can go to Walmart and buy the equipment you need — you dedicate your whole life to it.”
This ongoing tradition unites the family in a job that provides far more intimate family time than the average 9-5. Adrian says the kids were never pushed to perform but were drawn to it after watching their elders and got interested at their own pace. The four homeschooled children would practice with their parents up to six hours a day before taking the act on the road, and the family now tours 10 months out of the year.
When touring, the sense of family expands, with performers sharing caretaking duties and bonding over post-performance barbecues. “The circus is a very tight family,” said Poema, who continues to perform alongside other circus acts he has known since being a toddler.
Having wowed thousands of circusgoers the world over, theirs is one of the big acts to see at this upcoming Circus Vargas. Bring your family, and be wowed together at their acrobatic union. And who knows? You may start a family act of your own.
See circusvargas.com for the schedule and tickets.