Fermanda Evans manages to keep smiling even as she twirls whille hanging from her hair high above a 35,000 gallon water tank set up inside a big tent at the Expo Center in McAlester.
Minutes earlier Yovany Mendez is a study in deep concentration as he sets a round cylinder on its side, then crosses it with one, two, three, four, five skateboards as he steadies to keep his balance.
It's all in preparation for the Cirque Italia Water Circus Pirate Adventure continuing Friday night through Saturday and Sunday at the Expo Center. Cirque Italia performers were enthusiastic about bringing another show to the Expo Center in McAlester. Their Cirque Paranormal show played at the Expo Center in October.
Elena Stefanova is an aerial sling artist with the troupe. Originally from Bulgaria, she now lives in Dallas.
Stefanova said she became involved in becoming an aerial artist through becoming a gymnast in her childhood.
"I did gymnastics before I got to the circus," she said. She's been in the U.S. for 20 years, she said. "I would encourage anyone who wants to become an aerial artist to practice," she said, referring to gymnastics. "I encourage all the little girls to practice and get a little better every day."
What does she like about traveling with Cirque Italia?
"It's very interesting," Stefanova said. "It's always an adventure for us."
Hector "Polo" Pazaran's act features a crossbow and a longbow he said he uses to shoot balloons held by his wife in her hands and in her mouth.
"She's very brave," Pazaran said.
As a kid, Pazaran didn't have to dream about running away to the circus.
"I grew up in the circus," he said. He started as a juggler and a child clown. "I used to do high wire," he added.
How did he get into his crossbow and longbow act? He learned it from his uncle in Mexico.
"My uncle used to do it before he retired," Pazaran said. "He asked me if I would like to do it."
He and the other artists are just a few of the ones performing with Cirque Italia's Water Circus in what is billed as a family show.
They were set to wind up their Nov. 20 performance with a 7:30 p.m. show Friday night.
Performers were to follow that with two Saturday matinees and an evening performance at 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21.
The troupe plans to wind up its McAlester shows with Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.
Tickets start at $10, with coupon codes available that include a free child's admission with the purchase of a regular adult ticket. Plans call for the box office outside the tent at the Expo to be open beginning at 10 a.m. on the days of the shows.
Also, tickets can be purchased website at Cirqueitalia.com/tickets or by phone at (941) 704-8752, with a company representative saying text messages also get responses. More information can be obtained by visiting the Cirque Italia website or social media accounts, a company rep said.
The Expo Center is at 4500 U.S. Highway 270 in McAlester.
"We want to invite everybody," said Stefanova.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com