Virginia Tuells and Ihosvanys Perez are your average married couple, except they take supporting each other to a whole other level. The two are circus performers who make up Duo Fusion, a hand-balancing act in "Built to Amaze," the new show from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey that opened Wednesday night at Staples Center in downtown L.A.
Tuells, a native of Argentina, and Perez, who is from Cuba, met while working for a circus in Mexico nearly 10 years ago. In 2007, they caught the attention of Ringling Bros. producers Kenneth and Nicole Feld when they were performing in Puerto Rico.
"They're the kind of act that people talk about when they leave the show," says Nicole Feld.
Joining Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was "a dream come true," says Tuells.
"From the beginning, it [the act] was a success for us. Maybe it's just because of our chemistry," she says.
Their act has changed and evolved, but it's known for its technical lifts and balances — including one in which Tuelles balances above her husband using only his head for support.
Duo Fusion is inspired by dances of Latin America such as the tango and salsa, and like any spicy dancer, Tuells performs in heels.
"I think for every woman, the shoes are the most important part of the outfit," says Tuells, who confessed it was her idea to try the act in heels, despite the increased difficulty. Indeed, to women in high heels everywhere who complain about suffering for fashion: You don't know what suffering is until you've lifted your husband while wearing them.
"With heels," Tuells says, "your balance is different.... It is more complicated, but you want to look good, even if it hurts."
Duo Fusion has a competitor in "Built to Amaze" called Duo Solys, made up of Hector Gutierrez and Tatiana Colaquy, but the competition is friendly, says Tuells.
"It's super fun to share the arena with them," she says. "When we are working, we have the same problems. We always laugh about what happens."
"Built to Amaze" is the 143rd edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's "The Greatest Show on Earth" and promises the same thrills that families have come to expect over generations — clowns, jugglers, unicycles, peanuts — but with some new twists.
"You're always looking for the next great idea, and as a producer that's what we face every year: How do we do something new and different and still maintain the traditional?" says Nicole Feld.
For a circus that's been around since 1919, this is bound to be a challenge. "Built to Amaze" was in development for a year before premiering.
"The idea for this show really stemmed from kids' fascination with putting things together and how things are built," says Feld. "There's a sense of deconstruction … a behind-the-scenes sort of feel."
They try to reinforce this idea through programs such as the "All Access Pre-Show" and "Animal Open House," in which families can get a better look at what it's like to be in the circus and also meet the company's eight elephants.
"We live in a world where kids can't really relate to the circus," says Feld. "But if they get to walk on a wire in the pre-show, and then see a performer way above the ground, they see how hard it really is."
These extra programs are included with the cost of a ticket; families just have to show up 90 minutes before the show to take part. The company started doing this a couple of years ago and Feld says about 35% of circus-goers attend the pre-show events.
"Parents of younger children, especially, really feel like that is the most memorable part of the experience," Feld says.
"Built to Amaze"
Where: Staples Center
When: Through July 16
Price: $26 to $100
Information: (888) 929-7849; http://www.ringling.com
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