The Uncle Junior Project is a sharing of research on the African-American circus community sparked by respect for the work of circus animal trainer Emmanuel Ruffin (aka Uncle Junior), who was instrumental in the development of UniverSoul Circus as well as a role model to artists of color. Describing her regard for the figure of Uncle Junior, the project founder and circus artist Veronica Blair says, “In a lot of ways, he is my uncle, and the uncle of all of us who defy cultural and social stereotypes by stepping into the circus ring. I am honored and privileged to tell Junior’s story, and the story of other performers like him.” Blair is now celebrating 10 years of the Uncle Junior Project (UJP) and she describes launching her documentary series as “a rebranding / re-launching to celebrate this milestone.”
I asked Blair who her mentors were when she was getting her start in circus and she replied, “As for mentors, Pa-Mela Hernandez (one half of the aerial duo Satin) was a great inspiration and mentor. LaNorma Fox, Gérard Fasoli and female clowns…Paoli Lacy, Sara Moore.”
In this eight-episode documentary series, Blair will explore the lives and impact of Black artists of color on the American circus, casting the spotlight on influential artists of the past and present. In episode number two, Susan Voyticky discusses her philosophy and background in circus.
Also, watch the first episode of The Uncle Junior Project which covers the work of Robert Dunn (aka Onionhead da Clown from the Hood)