Complete with gravity-defying thrills, show begins tonight at Earl Warren Showgrounds
Few people shoot a bow and arrow like contortionist Daniella Arata Quiroga.
Instead of her hands, she uses her feet.
You can do a lot with your feet. Just ask Kimberly and Jessica Lester, sisters who use their feet to juggle carpet samples.
Another pair of siblings, the Marinella brothers, trust their feet as they walk — on the outside of a giant hamster wheel 35 feet above the ground!
Those are among the amazing feats at Circus Vargas, which starts its shows at 7:30 tonight for a run through June 20 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara.
The circus features people performing comedy and drama. There are no animals, but there’s plenty of suspense.
“This year’s theme is ‘The Circus Vargas Express,’ ” said Daniella’s mother, Katya Arata-Quiroga.
“The team takes the circus back to the earlier days of the circus when the circus traveled by train,” said Ms. Arata-Quiroga, who co-owns the circus with her husband, Nelson Quiroga.
This year’s show tells how the circus went from town to town. Within that story, the San Bernardino County-based, touring circus presents everything from motorcycle stunts to acrobats. Among the trapeze artists is another daughter of Mr. Quiroga and Ms. Arata-Quiroga: Mariella Arata Quiroga.
“Our family has a long history with Circus Vargas,” Katya Arata-Quiroga explained. “My dad’s Italian; my mom’s from Holland. They came in 1980 to work for the original owner (Clifford E. Vargas).”
When Mr. Vargas died, Ms. Arata-Quiroga’s stepfather acquired the circus, and when he retired, Mr. Quiroga and Ms. Arata-Quiroga bought the show in the mid-2000s.
Today he and his wife continue to oversee a longtime entertainment tradition that appeals to a broad audience.
“I think it’s one of the truest forms of art,” Ms. Arata-Quiroga said. “You can be 2 years or 92 years old or 102 years old, you’re going to enjoy the circus. It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from. It’s for everyone.
“You’re witnessing live performers doing amazing, incredible, acrobatic tricks,” she said.
New this year are the Marinella brothers, two Argentine-Americans who enter a giant hamster wheel 35 feet in the air. “They start walking on the inside and at some point, start walking on the outside to make it more death-defying,” Ms. Arata-Quiroga said. “It’s super cool.”
Last year audiences were amazed when two motorcyclists rode their bikes quickly inside a spherical cage.
“This year we have three motorcycles, and they do a scene in a complete blackout with just the lights on their tires, at breakneck speed,” Ms. Arata-Quiroga said. “The riders can’t see where they’re going.”
The brave motorcyclists are from Colombia and Bulgaria.
Acrobats from Romania will perform popular stunts such as one involving a teeter board. One acrobat jumps from a platform far above the ground and lands on one end of the board. That sends another acrobat, standing on the board’s other end, high up in the air.
Of course, there will be trapeze artists, who, again, include Mariella, Ms. Arata-Quiroga’s and Mr. Quiroga’s daughter. And as mentioned previously, their daughter Daniella Arata Quiroga will rely on her feet to shoot a bow and arrow.
“She uses the largest bow and arrow of any person who does this trick,” Ms. Arata-Quiroga said.
The proud mother knows all about the thrill of performing. She was a trapeze artist for 25 years.
The circus is a family tradition.
Ms. Arata-Quiroga, a seventh-generation circus professional, was 10 when her parents joined Circus Vargas.
Ms. Arata-Quiroga grew up in Amsterdam and attended the Conservatorium for Ballet and Music in the Netherlands before deciding to follow in her family’s footsteps and make the circus her career.
Mr. Quiroga was 19 when he joined Circus Vargas, where he and Ms. Arata-Quiroga met. She said she and her husband hope their children will one day oversee their circus’ legacy.
“We hope circus artists get inspired by our show, that more people will see this as an art form and want to come to our circus and circuses in general. We hope to inspire the new generation of kids.”