Circus Aerialist Dolly Jacobs

C Fi 9920

Being a circus performer is in Dolly Jacobs’ blood. Her father, Lou Jacobs, was a renowned clown with Ringling Bros. circus for almost 60 years. Her mother, Jean Rockwell, was a fashion model turned jill-of-all-trades Ringling Bros. performer. (Sadly, Rockwell’s career was cut short when she fell from an aerial ladder just a few days after her debut.) And then there are her godparents – Margie and Joe Geiger. Both Margie and Joe were aerialists. In fact, Joe was a member of the original Wallendas. With this family history, it’s no surprise Dolly is one of the most renowned aerialists of all time.

Dolly’s training began here in Sarasota with the Sailor Circus at the age of 13. It wasn’t long before she’d joined Ringling Bros. as a showgirl. With the help of Margie, Dolly choreographed the inaugural version of her Roman Rings Act in which she executed various maneuvers hanging from two ropes with rings attached to their ends. The act gained her a promotion from showgirl to aerialist.

But Dolly needed something special to make a name for herself. Joe had an idea. Why not jump from the trapeze to a vertical rope at the end of her act? (Never mind that aerialist Frank Sheppard had died trying this trick when his rope broke from the shock of suddenly taking on his full weight.) Dolly was game, and after much practice her act included this exciting maneuver, with one difference. Instead of a straight jump, Dolly did a full layout somersault from the trapeze to the rope. A star was born.

In 1997 Dolly and husband-to-be and fellow aerialist Pedro Reis founded Circus Sarasota. The mission of organization is to celebrate the circus arts and circus heritage through high quality circus performances. Today the Sailor Circus is a part of the organization that now operates under the name The Circus Arts Conservatory. Dolly has returned to her roots.

Dolly has won many awards throughout her career. The most special might be her receipt of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2015. She was the first circus performer to receive this honor.

Source image:



Luther Rosebaro

Luther was born and raised in Michigan, but has been in Florida since 1989. He never went to art school. He learning how to draw by looking, and asking. "I've loved to draw since I was a kid, couldn't afford paints, but always had a pencil, a #2 and a sheet of paper, later color. Color pencils taught me about color blending, now, painting, it all has just transformed. I have to add, Denise Kowal, the Chalk Festival, I love, I've been helped and inspired, to step out of the box. A person, an organization that are truly special to me, and one day we will all prosper because of it. No borders, no boundaries. Lastly, Sarasota, my home for decades, I didn't realize the length and breath of the trials and tribulations for people like me, having grown up in the North. But things are a changing, with folks like Denise, and myself. Lets make the change for the best! The story of black folks in Sarasota, their hard work to build this city, with no recognition, but I felt I would do my part. My part to bring history to the present and the future. Because it took all of us to do so, so lets give credit to where credit is do."

Written By

Nanette Crist

Nanette Crist is a retired lawyer who began blogging when she moved to Florida. It was an online diary of sorts, a way to keep track of her new life. It was also a good way to share her discoveries with friends and family outside the area. Over time, Nanette realized her writing makes her experience the world differently. She keeps an eye out for interesting things to write about and then delves more deeply into them as she crafts her words. It's all about telling the story. Nanette's blog can be found at