Paranormal Cirque, billed by its producer as “a wicked performance of European style,” will return to the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in Winston-Salem on March 24-27.
“It’s two hours of heart-stopping, racing, blood-pumping entertainment,” said Ben Holland, unit manager and contortionist for Paranormal Cirque.
It’s the kind of show where people can expect to laugh, get scared then cover their eyes and peek at the show through their fingers.
Holland added that the show is anything people would expect at the circus.
“You’ve got the acrobats and crazy motorcycle stunts, comedy and magic,” he said. “It’s fun, live entertainment, but we put a different spin on it — like Halloween-horror themed.”
Paranormal Cirque tours the country year-round.
“It’s not just for Halloween time,” Holland said. “People can come, and it can be Halloween whenever they want. This year, it’s Halloween all the time.”
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The show is produced by Cirque Italia, an entertainment troupe based in Sarasota, Fla., that stages various productions under a big top tent. It features artists from around the world, including Argentina, Belarus, China, Italy, Mexico, Peru and Senegal.
Paranormal Cirque was last in Winston-Salem in 2018, the same year it opened for the first time, starting in Florida.
“We’re always happy to host unique shows,” said Robert Mulhearn, public assembly facilities manager for the city of Winston-Salem. “We host over 100 events a year and this is one of those events as an example of the different kinds of events that we host throughout the year.”
For its current show, Paranormal Cirque has different offerings from its last performances in town.
“We have a lot of new things,” Holland said. “We’ve made changes and updates. Now that it’s four years old, we’ve really got our work down to a science. Everything goes over every single night without a hitch.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Paranormal Cirque had to shut down for only two and a half months.
“We are very blessed and lucky to have such a dedicated team that are so good about making sure to apply by any county restrictions so that we could stay open,” he said.
Holland said they did six or seven shows a day, allowing in 100 or 150 people, who were spaced out, for each show.
“We had people wiping down a handrail every five minutes and such, but we were able to pull it off.”
Before the show, people will experience a haunted maze as they are being led to their seats.
“It’s kind of like a miniature haunted house,” Holland said. “We bring people through, and people jump out and try to scare you. It’s pretty neat.”
He said showgoers can expect to see something they haven’t seen before.
“We bring a lot of original things,” he said.
Take a highwire walker, for example.
“We took that, and we said, ‘That’s not cool enough. We need to make it cooler for the people,’” Holland said. “So we took a motorcycle and we put it on the highwire. This guy (Ismael Alejandro Vargas from Mexico) rides on the motorcycle up, up, up in the sky, like 30 feet above the ground, balancing with a motorcycle.”
Holland said Paranormal Cirque tries to take all its performances to the next level.
“We try to make it extreme because we want to give people something that they haven’t seen before — something to talk about. Something to come out and experience with their friends and family,” he said.
Holland is also part of the show. A self-taught contortionist, he has trained since he was a child and has worked professionally as a contortionist for the past eight years.
“I take all my bones out of place and hope that they all go back,” he said. “So far, so good.”
Another performer is Argentina Portugal from Argentina.
“That’s her real name,” Holland said. “It says that on her birth certificate and everything … I made her show me her driver’s license, and it says, ‘Argentina Portugal.’”
An internationally renowned artist, Portugal has worked for circuses around the world.
“She ties her hair up then she hooks it onto this winch, and it drags her up in the air,” Holland said. “She hangs by her hair — all the way from the top of the tent. There’s no safety net. There’s nothing. She hangs by her hair and she swings around up in the air above everybody’s head.”