Master showman of the circus P.T. Barnum would have loved David Kiser, the vice president of talent for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, who is one of the imaginative minds that keep Barnum's dreams of audience entertainment alive.
Kiser, who sports a spiked crop of bright blond hair, began as a Ringling Bros. clown nearly three decades ago.
Today, he travels the globe scouting talent for future installments of "The Greatest Show on Earth."
"Being a clown was a lot of fun, but what I do now is also just as amazing and entertaining," said Kiser, taking a break from overseeing the string of performances for the latest themed circus production visiting Chicago this month.
"Being part of this new circus performance, mixing fantasy with reality, has been something to remember."
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Dragons, an all-new edition of the circus and billed as a "once in a millennium event celebrating The Year of the Dragon," is now playing at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. until Sunday before heading to Chicago's United Center, Nov. 14-25.
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson returns to preside over all three rings featuring what's described as "a fantastical celebratory tournament of circus champions that brings together mystic dragon lore with authentic circus feats."
While helping to create the show, which began with early designs and theme discussions nearly two years ago, Kiser said gathering the diverse talent helped shape the story for this year's circus
Shaolin Kung Fu Warriors, charging Cossack riders, magnificent Asian elephants and fierce lions and tigers are all part of the two and half hour spectacle leading up to the frenzied Globe of Steel finale and an appearance by the elusive golden fire-breathing dragon.
Kiser said the circus is also continuing the tradition of allowing an all-access pre-show available to all ticket holders. Families can participate in interactive experiences such as learning juggling and balancing skills, get performer autographs, see one of Ringling Bros. majestic Asian elephants paint a one-of-a-kind masterpiece and meet the Ringling Bros. Clowns.
The starring acts for this circus edition include:
• The Shaolin Warriors, from China, executing intense and fearless Kung Fu martial arts dating back to the 5th Century. Trained at an early age to become masters of their discipline, the Shaolin Warriors demonstrate powerful concentration and skill by using rapid movements and the sheer strength of their own bodies to twist eight foot long metal rods; break six foot long wooden poles in one precise strike; or be lifted seven feet in the air on the points of five hand-held spears.
• The Riders of the Wind, a dozen of the most deftly-balancing Cossack riders, charge into the ring on their thoroughbred horses, displaying great strength and amazing dexterity. The equestrian acrobat riders perform intricate maneuvers on horseback, including a double-man pyramid that builds to a remarkable Roman riding five-man high pyramid, all while the horses are galloping at full speed.
• The Globe of Steel features the Torres Family who shatter all records by putting eight family members on specialized motorcycles inside the metal orb. Once locked inside a 16-foot steel globe, all together they orbit at an unprecedented 65 miles per hour within inches of each other.
• Hailing from Great Britain and appearing in the United States for the first time, Alexander Lacey, trainer and award winning presenter, along with his big cats including tigers and lions, summons brazen bravado and valor in one mixed cat display. Lacey's fearless command of the big cats' agility and strength demonstrates unconditional respect between man and predator.
• Featured in a dazzling aerial display, Viktoriya Medeiros and Widny Neves, the "Hair Hang Heroines" ascend 35-feet in the air from just the strands of their long dark hair. Relying on the pure strength of their hair, they juggle, flip and even spiral down a silk chiffon banner.
• The Flying Caceres, with their double decker high trapeze designed specifically for Ringling Bros., soar elegantly through the air with their wildly difficult forward triple somersault and in the first worldwide attempt, troupe leader George Caceres undertakes a full twisting double bar-to-bar somersault.
• An animal array of the treasured Ringling Bros. Asian elephants, the largest herd of any circus in North America, along with Hans Klose and his ten high-energy rescue dogs displaying their animal athleticism by high jumping, hurdling, back flipping, walking on their hind legs and even diving from 16-feet up in the air. There's also Mayya and Andriy Panfilov and their troupe of performing domestic felines, who scale a "kitty low wire," balance on top of balls, jump through hula hoops and walk across parallel bars only using their front paws.
• In a friendly tournament of Russian Bar Renegades and Teeterboard Titans, two amazing acrobatic troupes attempt to outdo one another as they vault from a 12-foot long, six inch wide Russian bar showcasing an overwhelming series of flips, twists and somersaults sequences.
• Roaring through the arena sky is the dueling double motorcycle high-wire. Hearts pound as two daredevil riders race their motorcycles on specially designed high-wires suspended 30-feet over the audience. Precariously poised from each bike are beautiful aerialists who feed the flames of excitement with flips and spins all while on the moving bikes.
"We are so excited and have been waiting for 2012, the Year of the Dragon, to arrive so that we could create a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey production of such magnitude that celebrates mystical dragon lore with genuine circus feats," said Producer Nicole Feld. "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents DRAGONS is truly a once in a lifetime event where fantasy and real world legends literally collide at The Greatest Show On Earth."