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FLYING HIGH

Josue Marinelli is not your average 14-year-old.

Sure, he likes soccer and enjoys watching action movies, but he can also jump, spin and somersault almost 12 feet off the ground.

Josue, the youngest member of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, is a seasoned trampoline and trapeze performer. "I guess it is in my blood," said Josue (pronounced JO-soo-ay) in a recent interview. "All of my family is in the circus. My earliest memories are of playing at the circus and swinging from the trapeze."

Josue was interested in performing from a very young age, but his parents thought that he should decide for himself if he wanted to join the circus. "I was very excited," Josue recalled of the time his parents asked him to join their troupe. "I knew they thought I was responsible enough."

Josue began performing on the trapeze in 1996, and a year later, started working on the trampoline. Though he has never been injured, both pieces of equipment can be very dangerous: performers must dedicate themselves to mastering them. "Every day is different," Josue said. "(I practice) at least three days a week for two hours each day. Sometimes, (I practice) four times a week if we're doing new tricks or if we are in a new arena."

While he's on the road, Josue travels by train with his father, mother and younger brother, who is not in the circus.

Josue does stretching exercises on the floor before each show to prepare for difficult tricks. Then he's ready to do a somersault onto his uncle Stoyan's shoulders, flip backward into the air and jump high above the other members of the Marinelli trampoline troupe. "(My favorite part of performing) is being in front of an audience," he said.

Though he gets to do extraordinary feats on stage, off-stage Josue has to attend school just like any other teenager. "Most weekdays I have school, then a show at night," Josue said. "We have the same classes as regular schools. I like math and science the best."

He also enjoys listening to Britney Spears and lists Mexican cuisine as his favorite food. "Thank goodness, I don't have a special diet," he said.

Josue continues to perfect his trampoline skills for his troupe's act, while preparing difficult trapeze tricks for future performances. "I love to perform, and I think I always will," he said. He advises other teens who are interested in pursuing their dreams to "go for it and have fun. Some things take a lot of work, but it's worth it in the end."

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be at HSBC Arena Wednesday to Sunday. For more information, call 855-4444 or visitwww.tickets.com.

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