It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Ivan Vargas of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, a real-life superhero. He’ll soon soar into Beaumont and wants Southeast Texans to come out to the show to learn how they too can become superheroes and to watch the fearless feats of circus performers who astound and amaze Children of All Ages in the newest Greatest Show on Earth, Super Circus Heroes.
Vargas is a member of Ringling Brothers’ Clown Alley and a superhero trainer in the Super Circus Heroes tour. Vargas was not always a clown, and is uniquely qualified to train up and coming superheroes – after all, he and his family have a long history of flying through the air performing awe-inspiring acts.
“My parents did trapeze (the Flying Vargas Trapeze Troupe),” said Vargas, who literally grew up in the circus, a sixth-generation performer on his father’s side and a fifth-generation circus performer on his mother’s side. “The first time I went up on a trapeze, I was 2 years old. I started off doing trapeze and acrobatics just like my parents. It’s my passion. I love acrobatics. My parents (Alex and Lolis Vargas) have worked for Ringling Brothers for 25 years. They have done everything from being trapeze artists, high-wire artists, acrobats. Right now, my father is an elephant handler, and my mother works in the nursery with all the kids, all the future circus performers.”
Vargas said that for him, transitioning from acrobatics to clowning was natural. He finds skills he learned while training with his agile family compliment his new line of work.
“Being an acrobat, there’s one thing that we all need to know: how to fall,” Vargas said, chuckling. “It’s not just how to do the trick but how to fall so you can prepare yourself for certain things. When I started off being a clown, I actually had no idea what I was doing. I was very nervous. For the first time in my life, I was actually really nervous to be in front of people, even when I auditioned. The one thing I brought with me was my acrobatic skills and knowing how to fall. Obviously, some clowns, they need to know a lot of slapstick. That’s something that almost came second nature to me. Over the years, I have learned other skills and other things that I can apply to clowning, but that is one thing that I keep with me, my ability to do slapstick.”
Vargas said the Super Circus Heroes tour gives ticket holders the chance to see what he saw growing up under the big top: real people achieving the incredible.
“One thing the Ringling Brothers does is mesh worlds together,” Vargas related. “We like to keep things modern and traditional at the same time. So, when the idea came around for Super Circus Heroes, we realized that was actually an easy fit because some of these people, the acrobats, are real-life superheroes. It’s what I saw when I was a kid. I saw my family flying through the air on the trapeze. They were literally like the characters out of the comic books I was reading. They are superheroes in the show, but they are not wearing masks. They’re not hiding anything. You can see that they are normal people with extraordinary abilities.”
The action-packed Super Circus Heroes show filled with superhuman athleticism, power and pageantry showcases the marvelous to the magnificent.
“The show is really fun this year,” Vargas said of Super Circus Heroes. “Once you buy your ticket, which is really only about the price of a movie ticket, you’re going to get about three hours of entertainment. We have all new acts from all over the world, but we also have the favorites. We have the elephants, we have the horses, we have the dogs, and of course all the acrobats, so there’s a lot to see.”
In addition to the other various acts that are part of the Super Circus Heroes program, Vargas and his clowning cohorts will have audiences in stitches. Vargas said he greatly enjoys the All Access Pre-show Super Hero Party beginning one hour prior to the show itself. During the special interactive superhero training camp, the League of Super Circus Heroes teaches participants skills such as juggling, wire walking and dance routines. Participants will also have an opportunity to meet the performers, take pictures and get autographs. Superheroes in training can try on capes and other spectacular costumes and also get an up-close look at a menagerie of exotic animals including camels and elephants.
“All the people can come down to the arena floor and train with us,” said Vargas of the pre-show. “I’m there to personally train you to become a superhero. It’s really great. It’s an hour before every performance. It’s free for every ticket holder. They can just come down to the arena floor, and there’s tons to do. You can learn to walk on a low-wire, which is the beginning step to a high-wire and is only about 2 feet off the ground. You can also get onto one of the motorcycles that are actually used in the Globe of Steel. You can get a temporary tattoo of the Greatest Show on Earth. You can even try on costumes at the Greatest Show on Earth, not only from this tour but from years before, from when I was a kid and even before that. Performers come out and train how to do a handstand, how to do tai chi with our martial arts experts, the Shaolin Warriors. It’s a lot of fun, the pre-show. It’s just one part of the whole experience.”
Making their first tour with Ringling Brothers, the Shaolin Troupe is made up of young men ages 18 to 21, all recruited by coaches after auditions at various martial arts schools throughout China. Physical exercise is a daily routine in the Shaolin temple; they run, box, play basketball and have weapons practice. Demonstrating the ancient form of qigong (pronounced “chee-gong”), which dates back more than 4,000 years in China, the Shaolin Troupe displays supernatural strength and unbelievable agility. Summoning their inner “qi,” the troupe meditates an hour a day to balance their energy so that their minds and bodies can focus on performing the unimaginable.
Vargas said he hopes to see full houses at all showings of Super Circus Heroes. He promises something for everyone.
“There’s acts from all over the world,” Vargas lauded. “One of my favorite acts is The Lightning Rods. They are three ladies from Russia who are contortionists and hand-balancers and they also do this amazing choreography with this laser. It’s a really cool, modern act, and shows how Ringling Brothers stays innovative and stays immersive with the modern world. Also, the high-wire act, the Globe of Steel … I can go on and on. I invite everyone to come check it out.”
The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus presents Super Circus Heroes at Ford Park in Beaumont from June 20-22. The first show begins Friday, June 20, at 7 p.m. There will be two shows Saturday, June 21, one at 1 p.m. and the next at 5 p.m. The final show will be Sunday, June 22, at 1 p.m. Seating is limited, so order your tickets online now at www.ringlingbros.com  or www.ticketmaster.com  or call (800) 745-3000 to reserve your seats. For group sales information, call (866) 248-8740. Enjoy the show!