During the day, Ayelen Ventura studied mathematics, working to pass the year-end exam that would allow her to complete eighth grade.

Like her little sister Didi, she’s home schooled.

But come 7:30 p.m., Ventura takes on an entirely different role, one she has trained for most of her life. She’s an aerialist with the Ventura Stars Circus, a family-run operation featuring performers with serious credentials within the industry. 

“I’m a sixth-generation performer,” Ventura said one afternoon last week outside the travel trailer she shares with her family. “It feels different than everybody else. But it’s fun. It’s unique.”

Ventura Stars Circus set up its big top, red-and-white striped tent at the corner of Seventh and L streets in Sanger and began performing nightly on April 25. The show continued until May 6. Joining Ventura in the center ring was juggler Josue Rodriguez; Gustavo with his act of very talented and fashion conscious miniature poodles; Gerson Vasquez, “The Human Dragon,” who plays with fire; Oderel Gombo, a contortionist from Mongolia; and others. Ventura’s little sister Didi plays Pepe Grilla the clown.

Ventura Stars Circus heads to Parlier from May 9 to 13. For additional information, go to Ventura Star Circus on Facebook or venturastars_circus on Instagram.

The circus was started by Ventura’s dad, Fernando Ventura, who works for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. Ayelen Ventura said he comes a couple times a week to help operate the shows and take care of various needs. But her mom, Daiana, manages the day-to-day operations, she said.

Fernando Ventura worked for about four years in the Cirque du Soleil resident show in Tokyo, “Zed.” He currently performs for “Mystere” at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, Cirque du Soleil’s longest running show.

“He grew up in the circus,” Ayelen said of her dad. “My dad does the trapeze. Flying trapeze. They do flips. My dad was also a clown. He started when he was 5. He would do trapeze as a clown (when he first started) so he would joke around.”

In the trailer next door parked on the gravel lot, Ayelen’s maternal grandfather, Ricardo Civarela, emerged and said hello. Ayelen said he also did trapeze but now mostly helps out with running the show from the sidelines. “One time, he did it (flying trapeze) with broken fingers,” she said.

Ayelen said Ricardo met his wife, Gina, after Gina walked past his circus a number of times. They got to know each other and Gina agreed to marry him.

Ayelen said her dad’s parents met much the same way. “Both our families had the same story but certain things are different,” she said.

The families originally come from Chile and Argentina. Ayelen speaks Spanish fluently.

Ventura Stars Circus began the year, its first, performing in Pahrump, Nev. Ayelen said they plan to continue their tour throughout the rest of the year. She said her family had visited Sanger before with another circus. “It went really well so we decided to return,” she said. “We’re planning to go all over the state of California.”

The flavor of Ventura Stars is more like seeing performers — the good ones — hit the stage for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” They know their stuff and how to wow audiences. They’re very skilled and know how to engage even the youngest in the audience.

For instance, Didi in her Pepe Grilla act is fearless and performs with Rodriguez the juggler. He changes costumes and appears as a clown as well. His clown persona is Pepe Grillo.

Of her sister, Ayelen said, “Didi makes friends with any kids who come over.” And a day before, she was recognized in Wal-Mart and a woman gave her a gift card because she was so impressed with her act, Ayelen said.

Rodriguez has been performing his entire life. His juggling act includes the bowling pins but he brings it up a notch when he brings out the multiple volleyballs and the rings. But one of the best parts is when he breaks out the hats. He juggles them, spins them outward and catches them like a Frisbee. Then he does all that and puts one after another in rapid sequence on his head.

Vasquez, the Human Dragon, is a crowd favorite. “He plays with fire,” Ayelen said. “Torches. People like it. He’s won various competitions.”

Gombo, the contortionist, speaks a combination of Mongolian, English and Spanish. Ayelen said he’s teaching Didi how to do some of what he has mastered. Ayelen also learned the skill when she was younger, studying under a teacher who expected nothing but perfection.

She said Gombo is skilled. “He’ll be in the Scorpion and can lift himself into a handstand,” she said. And then she described what that looked like. The Scorpion is a yoga pose where the practitioner pulls up his legs backwards over the head. “On your chin. And his legs can touch the floor.”

Daiana Ventura said she no longer performs but has done “everything” in the circus. She danced, performed on the trapeze and even did a stint as a magician. 

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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