Former Ringling Brothers performer keeps circus alive at Knoxville gym

Alex Kopilow, WATE 6 On Your Side - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus announced Saturday they were closing after 146 years in operation.

Hearing the "Greatest Show on Earth" is shutting down brings back vivid memories for Mike Tataru. Currently Tataru runs a gymnastics gym in West Knoxville, but in the 1980s the Romanian gymnast was recruited as an acrobat for the circus.

"People would walk from across the street just to see the actors and the acrobats and the performers," said Tataru. "Ringling Brothers was like a magical dream come true."

During that time Tataru performed with his family. Three of his sisters were involved in the show.

"It was amazing because it not a lot of them have an opportunity to travel with a part of your family. It was fun, and we help each other in good times and bad times, so it was amazing."

Tataru said the main act he did was on a teeterboard, which resembles a playground seesaw. A long board is divided in the middle by a fulcrum. At each end of the board is a square area where performers stand on an incline before being catapulted into the air.

During his time in the circus, Tataru said he broke several world records. One of those records, including an act where six performers would stand on each other's shoulders. One person would perform a double full back somersault off of one of a teeterboard, landing on the head of the top performer.

The gymnast also met his wife while working in the circus.

"My wife worked in promotions for the Ringling Brothers. We fell in love and back in 1984. We got married at Grays Baptist Church. And this March it will be 33 years of marriage to this special lady from local Knoxville," said Tataru.

While the final performance for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is scheduled for May 21 in New York, Tataru said the spirit of the show continues at his gym.

"We keep a little bit of that circus life here," said Tataru. "All those kids and people that come and join us keeps the dream of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus through the Gymnastics Tumbling and Trampoline center alive."

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