A brisk breeze filled the air in the Budweiser Grandstand at the Chautauqua County Fair Thursday evening as the cirque aerial arts event had people craning their necks to watch the Aerial Arts of Rochester troupe fly through the air using silks and aerial hoops.
Performer, speaker and self-proclaimed oddball Nels Ross provided comic relief to the audience in between acts as he juggled, Chinese yo-yoed and punned his way into the audience's hearts.
"It's amazing what you can do with 30 years of no social life!" Ross joked as he flung fire-wielding juggling pins through the air. Three teenagers from the grandstand helped toss him the fire pins, signaling a show packed with audience participation.
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
The Aerial Arts of Rochester finale was unique in that it included a plot to the performance regarding a battle over love, complete with martial arts fighting moves.
Before he introduced the first aerial acrobatics, Ross cautioned everyone not to try any of the stunts at home. However, that did not deter one eager audience member from answering him back.
"I will!" one little girl shouted as the audience erupted in laughter.
As the show commenced, one performer after another from the cirque troupe wowed the audience with jaw-dropping and gravity-defying stunts. One of the first performances involved Aerial Arts of Rochester Co-founder William D'Ovidio striking Superman-style poses in the sky using the silks. D'Ovidio also performed to the James Bond theme song later on.
Other performances included the use of an aerial hoop and even some martial arts fighting moves.
Of course, no arts show is complete without fire in front of the audience's faces. At one point, a ballet-style dance with fire was performed in between aerial performances, serving as an intermission. That performance included fire breathing and fire-sword swallowing.
After everyone came back down to the ground at show's end, audience members had nothing but praise for the performers, including Ross.
"I was glad to provide the comical bits for this group's performance," he said. "This was my first full show with them and I love being able to go to the fair. Maybe next year I'll be able to come back here as a solo act, too."
"It was a lot of fun helping Nels Ross with his juggling-balance act," Sharon Keller of Rochester said after she "volunteered" to help hand sharp objects and an apple to the emcee as he balanced on an unstable board. "I felt confident and trusting of him. He is a great performer."
Keller said she wasn't at all nervous as she helped Ross balance and hold the sharp objects.
"This was definitely an excellent, family-oriented show," Dave Wilson, fair director for the grandstand, said. "We did everything we wanted to accomplish in bringing them here. I would definitely recommend them to any other county fair. Hopefully we might be able to bring them back again next year, as well."
D'ovidio said that while the wind was a bit of a factor during the performance, it did not deter any of the troupe.
"You always have to worry about the wind during an aerial arts performance, but we as performers have to roll with the punches and continue the show," he said. "Outdoors, you don't really let go of the fabrics if there is a bit of wind. Other than that, everything went great. We were happy to come out to the Chautauqua County Fair for the first time and we look forward to coming back again in the following years, if we can,"
D'ovidio also said that the Aerial Arts of Rochester is unique to the area since it is the only one of its kind within 300 miles of the city of Rochester. The group started up in 2010 and has performed at venues such as the Lockport Exchange Circus and the Monroe County Fair. It also has an aerial arts school in the Rochester area.
"We do different types of performances, both indoors and outdoors. We're also hired for weddings, bar mitzvahs and, especially, fundraisers," he said.
To learn more about the performance group, or to book them at your own special occasion, go to www.aerialartsrochester.com.
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