The Story of Omnium Circus: Making the Impossible—Possible

We’re so excited to welcome Omnium Circus to the New Victory stage with their show I’mPossible, an exuberant big top extravaganza featuring an awe-inspiring, inclusive ensemble—an award-winning gymnast who uses a wheelchair, an aerialist born without legs, a Deaf storyteller and many more. Accessible to all, every performance incorporates ASL, audio description, sensory-friendly lighting and sound, and a relaxed environment where movement and vocalization are welcome.

Header image with circus imagery and title of the blog

Before you head to the theater for your performance of I’mPossible, hear from Omnium Circus founder Lisa Lewis on the history of circus arts and how Omnium Circus works to combat the historical lack of inclusion in the circus.

The History of Disability in Circus Arts

Rik Daniels does a handstand on his wheelchair.
Rik Daniels (Dancer/Acrobat) Photo: Maike Schulz

Disabled people historically turned to circus life when their differences excluded them from a more conventional workforce. Within the circus community, they were treated with respect, paid living wages and supported in buying property. Society as a whole denied them basic human needs such as the ability to earn a living, raise a family and own a home.

In the Victorian era and well into the twentieth century, many audiences bought tickets to the sideshow tent where they would gape at those with disabilities or different body types alongside animals. The dominance these types of circuses once knew had declined precipitously by about 1950, and civil rights laws, labor laws and a groundswell of advocacy movements have long since outlawed such spectacles in the United States, at least on the books.

Omnium’s Mission of Accessibility and Inclusivity

Omnium is among the select few arts organizations nationwide that prioritize comprehensive inclusion for disabled circus artists and the beautiful mosaic of artists from nine different countries. Rather than othering, Omnium Circus celebrates and uplifts the magnificent talents, skills and accomplishments of an incredibly dedicated team of artists.

We’ve implemented innovative techniques to ensure equal access for all audience members, including those with visual, auditory and sensory challenges. From audio description to American Sign Language interpretation, we strive to create an immersive experience for everyone. Nationwide, we’re the sole family entertainment provider ensuring comprehensive accessibility for every audience member at every single show, without exception!

Owen Sanchez balances in the air
Owen Sanchez (Hand Balancing) Photo: Maike Schulz

The Accomplishments of the I’mPossible Cast

There are so many talented performers in the I’mPossible cast. To name a few, acrobat and aerialist Jen Bricker-Bauer was the first person without legs to compete in power tumbling against able-bodied athletes, becoming a State Champion in her division. In 2015, she was inducted into the Gallery of Legends Hall of Fame by the World Acrobatic Society.

Ringmaster Danette Sheppard-Vaughn has shared the stage with music legends like Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, appeared in a European tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and had a leading role in the Off-Broadway production of Red Hot Broadway.

Several members of our troupe descend from multi-generational circus families and are proud to guide the tradition into a newer, kinder future.

Jennifer Bricker-Bauer and Dominik Bauer fly through the sky on aerial silks.
Jennifer Bricker-Bauer and Dominik Bauer (Aerialists)
Photo: Maike Schulz

For more behind the scenes content from I’mPossible, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Leave a comment