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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo This year's Festival of Wonder includes a new circus show, CirqUnique.

Ivan Dotsenko didn't have to run away to join the circus. He was born into it. And that acrobatic life -- of artistry, balance and defying the law of gravity, not lions and tigers and bears -- has taken him all around the world, to Broadway and now to Silver Dollar City, where he's performing during this year's Festival of Wonder.

"From a young age, I knew I was going to be a circus performer," says Dotsenko, who is originally from Ukraine. His traveling family performed all over Europe and the United States, including stints at other major theme parks like Disney and SeaWorld.


Festival of Wonder

WHEN — Through April 29

WHERE — Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.

COST — $54-$65

INFO — 800-475-9370 or

BONUS — The festival also includes performances by returning favorites Earth Harp Collective and speed painting by Paint Jam of Texas, along with new act the X-Pogo Stuntmen.

"The first time I came to the United States, I went to middle school while performing in Florida; then in England, I went to school, so basically any time we had a long-term, sit-down contract, I went to school," he says, explaining his flawless English.

Intended to bring the "unique and extraordinary" to the stages of Silver Dollar City, the Festival of Wonder, now in its second year, also includes a fire juggler with multiple Guinness world records; a slack wire artist from Russia performing unbelievable acrobatic feats on a loose high wire; and world-renowned Canadian illusionist Vitaly Beckman. Dotsenko is part of a new international act, CirqUnique -- which includes his extreme pole-balancing bicycle segment -- but he's far from a stranger to Branson. He was part of the original circus show that went from the tourist town's famous "Strip" to the Great White Way.

"So Branson is very familiar, and I am glad to be back," he says.

"It's extremely challenging finding just the right acts for this festival," says Rex Burdette, Silver Dollar City's entertainment and events manager, who has been booking acts for the 1880s theme park for more than 25 years. "It's basically a huge treasure hunt, looking for each special act that sets itself apart with unusual twists to the 'expected spectacular,' making it show-stopping extraordinary."

Dotsenko won't return to anything ordinary when the festival ends April 29 either. He and his wife Carly Sheridan, also performing at Silver Dollar City this spring, live in Las Vegas, where they run a circus program for at-risk youth.

NAN What's Up on 04/22/2018

Print Headline: A Life In The Circus

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