Lewis and Clark Circus features aerial acts, performing dogs (w/video)

Lewis and Clark Circus performers Lena Dotsenko and Vandeir Dosreis talk about their experiences working in a circus.

Jenica Perez had always wanted to meet a real clown since first seeing one in a book during class at Bloomington Elementary School.

Along with her parents, Jenica, 8, of Bloomington, was first in line at Victoria Community Center to see the traveling act Lewis and Clark Circus perform Jan. 24.

"I like clowns; it's cool how they ride their little bikes on the strings," she said as she made her way into the bleachers before the show.

Based out of South Carolina, the group dazzled the audience with fire juggling, an upright walking schnauzer named Tiko and various aerial acts.

Dressed in a lime-green fluorescent suit during the performance was aerial acrobat Lena Dotsenko.

"I just came for the first time to this country to work for a few years," Dotsenko said, who is originally from the Ukraine and started her career in 1998 with the Carson and Barnes Circus. "Now, it's been 16 years. I've just never stopped."

Beginning in March, the Lewis and Clark Circus will have up to three performances daily while on tour until mid-November.

"It's hard, but I like it," said fifth-generation Argentinean acrobat Ariel Valeiras about his demanding schedule. Valeiras, 18, recently finished his high school degree online while traveling with the circus.

For aerial acrobat Chelcie Carpenter, life on the road has its perks.

"I get to meet people from all over the world," Carpenter, 22, said who started circus school at 9 years old in Peru, Ind.

For the performers, the end of a nearly two-hour show was just another in what will be many in the months to come.

The audience trickled out, and Jenica beamed as she walked down from the stands.

She'd seen much more than just her first clown.

As for her favorite part: "All of it," she said, her face newly painted with an array of whiskers and stripes.