AFRIKA SOUL CIRCUS comes to Las Vegas
“I was so impressed by these black men who were spinning, tumbling and flipping on their unicycles,” Perkins recalls of his first look at the troupe, which was established in 1968 and soon after became the first group of African-American performers to join the renowned circus. “The audiences went crazy with excitement. I told my mom that I wanted to grow up and do what they were doing, and she took me backstage after the show to meet the group. I will never forget meeting one of the men who said to me if I got a unicycle and practiced he would one day come back and get me.”
Perkins realized his dream of joining the troupe by saving his own money and practicing every day on a unicycle. “I started performing with the unicycle group at the age of 14,” he said. “The cliché, ‘I am running away with the circus,’ was a reality for me — and I traveled the world. And at the time, the circus also paid for the education of their employees.”
From an early age, Perkins realized that there was a market for black circus performers. He performed with King Charles for 19 years, an experience that afforded him the opportunity to meet and build relationships with performers around the world. Today, Perkins is the founder and CEO of Afrika Soul, a unique circus that might be described as evoking a “Lion King” production, but fused with a dose of Cirque du Soleil.
“Afrika Soul is a musical circus that explores the artistic expression of the arts,” Perkins said. “Our show transcends the actual boundaries that unite all mankind in an effort to bring people together. Afrika Soul consists of performers from various parts of Africa that include Guinea, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Gabon. It is a cultural fusion of artistic expression.”
In conjunction with the annual Magic Convention, Afrika Soul is slated to open in Las Vegas in August. In conversation, it is clear that Perkins is excited that his vision has become a reality.
“I said in 2000 that I wanted an authentic black circus and actually received a contract to take it overseas,” he said. “It sold out in arenas that seated over 10,000 people. I knew that there was nothing like this in America, as far as a true African circus. There is only one (other) black circus in America, called Universoul Circus — but it has multicultural cast members. We have developed a true African circus with native costumes, drums and the whole African vibe. Now, we are happy to bring together the greatest show on earth.”