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  • Through Their Eyes: Boy Wonder Tomas Wallenda

    Tomas Wallenda

    The interview series “Through Their Eyes” features various artists at the 2017 Folklife Festival. Whether they express their truths through spoken word or acrobatics, these artists share a part of themselves in every performance.

    It’s not every day you see a five-year-old boy in a white tuxedo walking a tightrope twenty feet in the air.  

    “I’m scared of heights, but climbing this ladder wasn’t that scary. I think it’s fun. But I did climb a tall statue today, and that was kind of scary.”

    Tomas Wallenda doesn’t know a life without heights.

    Tomas is one of the latest additions to the Flying Wallendas, an eighth-generation circus family. While on the tightrope, the family juggles, bicycles, and communicates like any other family working together: through words of affirmation and looks of consternation.

    As the adults redefine the family dynamic on the tightrope, Tomas carries the family legacy. Though normally afraid of heights, Tomas first started climbing the ladder and walking the tightrope at three years old.

    When I talked with Tomas after their act at the 2017 Folklife Festival’s Circus Arts program, he was still dressed in his performance outfit. His suit was slightly too large and his red bowtie was lopsided. Mischievously, he asked if I wanted an autograph. Of course I said yes.

    Flashing me a quick grin, he walked back into his tent and reappeared with a Wallenda postcard and a red Sharpie. He crouched down and scribbled his name. According to his mother, he’s just at that age where he mistakes his S’s for Z’s.

    It was a great way to end my interaction with the one and only “Tomaz.”

    Laura Zhang is studying neuroscience and Plan II Honors at The University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she is an intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and exudes a passion for social justice, stories, and dogs of all kinds.

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