A More Inclusive Circus Coming to Tysons

Keith Loria Around Town, Art & Culture

Publishing note: The following article appears as how it was published in the Holiday 2021 issue of Tysons Premier.

The performance has been relocated and rescheduled to:
Capital One Hall in Tysons, VA
Saturday, February 26th at 2:00 pm


Omnium Circus was created to promote inclusivity and diversity and showcase it in a way unmatched by almost any other live entertainment company.

“The genesis of it is, after years of working at Big Apple Circus, and watching kids who could only come one day a week to the circus, or who had to be left at home because there weren’t accommodations for them, I just started dreaming,” says Lisa Lewis, founder and executive director of Omnium Circus. “I wanted to create a show that’s accessible to every kid all the time so no one is left behind.”

It also occurred to her that as these children were looking at the incredible circus performers, they very rarely saw themselves represented. 

“We can be our best selves if we can see ourselves represented,” Lewis says. “That added on to the dream.”

When the pandemic happened, and all the major circuses shut down. Lewis saw it as her opportunity to make the dream a reality.

It started during the pandemic as a virtual showplace production, which included people of all abilities and it was watched by more than 30,000 people. 

“The next logical step was, ‘can we do this for real?’ and have a live production that embodies all the elements in our production in terms of complete accessibility and complete inclusivity, allowing everyone to showcase their own brilliance,” Lewis says.  

That’s now happening, as her dream circus will be performed at Tysons III in Tysons, Va., from Nov. 18 through Jan. 9.

Omnium Circus currently has more than a quarter of its cast, crew, front of house staff, executive team and vendors come directly from the disability community. That far exceeds the standard set by the federal government requiring that seven percent of the federal workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities.  

“This is an incredible, phenomenal, world premiere performance with a circus that includes performers who have been in the circus business for eight generations and many who have performed all over the world,” Lewis says. 

For the Tysons shows, a great number of front of house staff have been hired through partnerships with Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia, Best Buddies, National Federation for the Blind and similar organizations, providing many of those with disabilities an opportunity to find meaningful work around the upcoming holiday season. 

“From the boardroom to the box office to center ring, Omnium is leading the way in inclusivity and we are proud to announce we have such a high percentage of disabled employees in the Omnium family,” Lewis says. “The circus has traditionally always been a place of diversity and acceptance and all are certainly welcome under our big top.”

Naturally, the circus ring itself will showcase an incredibly diverse multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-abled cast of circus superstars, several from the disability community themselves, who push the limits of what is possible. 

Aerialist Jen Bricker Bauer

For instance, aerialist Jen Bricker-Bauer, who was born without legs, soars above the ring, defying gravity and stigma while on the ground. This is her first-ever circus appearance and Lewis notes that she’s just as excited as audience members will be watching her.

Then there’s D.C. local deaf dancer and Cystic Fibrosis advocate Bailey Ann Vincent, who shines under the spotlight as part of the dance team. 

Other great acts include the Wheel of Destiny, a mystifying crossbow act, a silk act, and an aerial pole act.

“We just have an incredible company of performers and it’s totally inclusive,” Lewis says. “We want our guests to feel comfortable and safe, and be themselves and enjoy the show the way they want. People will have a really great time.”

Omnium Circus is also the first-ever circus to welcome multi-abled audiences by creating comprehensive accommodations at all shows including an innovative relaxed seating area allowing people to enjoy the circus however they choose. These include ASL; Audio Description; ADA seating for service animals and mobility challenges; Assisted Listening Devices; designated Calming Areas; Braille programs, Social Story and STEAM Study Guides at every performance.

Omnium Circus runs at Lerner’s Tysons III, 8025 Galleria Drive from Nov. 18 through Jan. 9. Tickets range from $35-$95. For more information, visit www.omniumcircus.org


Pictured at top: Johnathan Lee Iverson