Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
Map of Galleria at Sunset
1300 West Sunset Road , Henderson
Jim Kuntz of Las Vegas had just finished shopping near the Galleria at Sunset mall Wednesday when he noticed a gigantic blue and yellow tent looming in the parking lot.
“I just got out of the Barnes and Noble and was about to go home when I saw this and came back,” the 64-year-old said, pointing at the Circus Vargas tent. “My 5-year-old grandson would love this. Anything like this would get him excited.”
That’s exactly what Katya Quiroga was hoping to hear about her traveling circus’ first stop to Henderson.
The 40-year-old vice president and artistic director of the Circus Vargas traveling troupe said her goal is to bring an affordable and family friendly circus experience to people with nine performances between today and Monday.
“We’re trying to give people more of a family show,” Quiroga said. “We’re not Cirque du Soleil, but kids, senior citizens and even teenagers can come enjoy our show.”
For Quiroga, circus is a family business. Her parents were circus performers. So were her grandparents. In fact, Quiroga represents the seventh generation of circus performers in her family.
Her 13-year-old daughter Mariella Quiroga is a budding hula-hoop performer who will be performing with the circus this week, she said.
“Life’s a circus,” said Quiroga, a flying trapeze artist who likens her act to doing ballet in the air. “There’s a certain joy in performing and creating the show, but there’s more joy seeing people’s faces and their smiles.”
Circus Vargas returned to Las Vegas after a five-year stint in California with performances at the Rio last November.
It was a sweet homecoming for Vittoro Arata, Quiroga’s Italian father, who walked the tightrope act in the original Circus Vargas.
The 68-year-old said he joined the Circus Vargas troupe in Las Vegas 30 years ago after he saw Elvis perform in Viva Las Vegas.
“It was a dream to perform here,” said Arata, who now serves as the general manager for the show. “This is the entertainment capital of the world. I couldn’t get away.”
Because of its success at the Rio, Circus Vargas is back in the valley, Quiroga said.
Since Saturday, when the custom-made European-style tent and circus arena was set up, the 30-member troupe of performers from Mexico, Argentina, Europe, Russia and the United States has been practicing old and new acts every day.
The animal-free performances will feature hula-hoops, human juggling acts, aerial bungee-ballet, a caged motorcycle performance, clowns and a acrobats, Quiroga said. Children can attend a special 20-minute pre-show in the ring, where they can try out hula hooping, juggling and balancing acts.
“We wanted to show kids the ring, have them try out some of the acts and get an idea of what it’s like to be inside the ring,” said circus host Jon Weiss. “I think they get a better appreciation of just how hard it is to be a performer.”
Ticket prices range from $15 to $60 and can be purchased by calling (877) 468-3861 or by visiting circusvargas.com.
Circus Vargas is extending free tickets to struggling families. The circus unemployment program allows two adults and two children to be admitted to any weekday performance with proof of unemployment. To receive the tickets, patrons should go to the box office one hour before show time.
“We know the unemployment rate is very high here in Nevada, so this being our hometown, we wanted to make something special for those of us who can’t come to see the circus,” Quiroga said. “Kids and families need this kind of entertainment.”