PAOLA AND VIRGILIO: FOCUS IS WHAT GOT US HERE
In BOP faces we talk to local legends: the people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition: Virgilio and Paola of Focus Circus. What was it like for them to move to Punta Cana from Venezuela, form their own circus group and eventually start a food truck?
“Cumpleanos feliz, cumpleanos feliz!” A girl walks into her surprise birthday party at the Foodie’s truck Bavaro. Her friends and family are singing and clapping around the picknick tables in the courtyard. The plot is lively tonight. There is a big screen where people are watching reruns of the World Cup. On the other side there are songs from Puerto Rican artist Ozuna coming out of speakers. In the midst of all the liveliness and different food trucks, there is a truck called Circus. It was started by four circus loving friends from Venezuela. Gabriela (21), Virgilio (25), Kevin (25) and Paola (23), who also happen to form a Circus group together.
“We never thought of starting a food truck!” Paola explains. “It was when the owner of the Foodie’s Truck Bavaro offered us a spot here. That was four months ago. We are open for 2 months now. Everything we had to learn from scratch. The first thing we thought of was, what do people like? The answer? Hamburgers! Then we thought of adding something. Wraps! Now, we had to find the right taste, so we started preparing different recipes at our home. The recipes are secret though.”
“Looking for the best ingredients, finding good suppliers, it was, and it is a lot of work. Even now that we are open, we need to take care of so many details. Do we have enough drinks? Do we have enough lettuce? Meat? You name it.”
How they met
Paola and Virgilio lock their arms together, while they talk about their food venture and living in Punta Cana. But there are two people missing in their little squad tonight. Kevin and Gabriela. The other members of their Circus group.
The four know each other from back home in Venezuela. Paola and Virgilio were neighbours who fell in love 7 years ago. Virgilio always had a love for the Circus. “When I was 15 years old I watched YouTube videos and taught myself how to juggle. I was fascinated. Afterwards, I found a group that gave circus training and joined,” Virgilio explained.
“One day I went to a circus training with Virgilio. I liked it and I stayed. It is there where we met Gabriela and Kevin, who also trained in the same group,” Paola says. “Virgilio and I trained a lot together. In the group, but also at home. Although I did not have the experience I learned fast.”
Move to Punta Cana
As the political situation in Venezuela started changing, the four friends decided to move to Punta Cana. “We had been to the Dominican Republic before in 2015 with our Venezuelan Circus group. Our performance was in the Blue Mall in Santo Domingo,” Virgilio explains. “We knew the Dominican Republic. So, when things got bad in Venezuela we decided to come here with the four of us and start a Circus group,” Paola adds. “This was around 1 year and 8 months ago. I just took one suitcase with me and one bag. I left everything. My family and my studies. In Venezuela, I studied Contemporary dance. I had to start from zero here. My parents and my younger brothers are still in Venezuela. I don’t know when I will see them again. It is so complicated to travel there, and it is hard for them to come here. We communicate with each other through WhatsApp a lot. Although Virgilio, Kevin and Gabriela are my family, the love of a mother is everything.” Paola looks down to the table. The memories of her family make her eyes water.
“The only one who has family in Punta Cana is Kevin. His mother and brother manage the food truck when we have performances.”
Knocking on doors
“The first thing we did when we came here is rent scooters to go around Punta Cana. We knocked on every hotel door to ask if we could perform. We got so many rejections. At times we got a telephone number of a manager of the animation of a resort. When we called, they did not call back, or they said they already had a group. I can’t even remember how many hotels we visited. But one day we got our breakthrough. Resort Bahia Principe was actually looking for a circus group when we contacted them,” Paola says.
“Because we hardly came with anything here, we ordered all our circus equipment on Amazon,” Virgilio adds. “I was not nervous for the first show in the resort, but I felt this sensation, adrenaline. The show went perfectly. We were extremely focused’ says Paola.
“I cannot describe the feeling I get when I perform. The Circus is my life!” Virgilio says enthusiastically.
“My speciality is handstand. I do everything standing on hands,” Paola explains. Virgilio’s speciality is mime, clown and joggling. Gabriela does everything in the air. Trapeze and other aerial things. Kevin speciality is strength. He can throw us up in the air!”
Circus food truck
With their Circus performances in the resort, the four friends supported themselves and their families. But this changed when the resort got another management. “We lost our show in the resort. It forced us to think about other ways to get income and that is when the food truck came along,” Paola says.
“No matter what business I am in I will always include the Circus. It is my passion. Our passion. That is why the food truck is called Circus,” Virgilio adds.
The hamburgers and wraps on the menu have names of Circuses the four admire. The Oz burger with melted cheese in the middle of the burger and du Soleil wrap are examples of this. On Tuesday you won’t see the four friends at the food truck. On that day they have a kid’s show at the Palladium resort and perform for adults at the Chic Punta Cana.
“The four of us train together, live together, perform together and have a business together. We are like family. In every family, you have irritations sometimes but that is normal. Our bond is very strong,” Virgilio says.
“My favourite spot in Punta Cana is my bed,” Paola says laughing. “Mine too!” Virgilio adds.
“We are not really the club types. We love going out to dinner at Citrus. They have good food and it is cheap. Or we take a Coffee at Dahlias on Plaza Turquesa. There is also that little Italian place in Plaza San Juan across the Altice store we like.
“In the future, I would like to have my own café. A Bohemian Parisian one. I don’t know I always liked that kind of style,” Paola says.
“Future plans, well we will get married first.” Paola looks up lovingly while Virgilio mentions marriage. “We would love to go to Barcelona. There are so many festivals to perform there and we have so many friends in that city!”
Focus on the future
“The name of our Circus group is called Focus because our trainer in Venezuela always told us to fully focus.” Paola puts her hands on each side of her head and gestures forward.
“Focus is what got us here today.”
Get in touch with Focus Circus on Instagram!
Keep on reading about other people living in Punta Cana on BOP faces. Harolis who helps communities in Punta Cana, or artist Tiano Solana who uses his wife as muse in all his paintings, or Juan Bautista who was born in Bavaro when it was still a jungle or Ashlee who makes jewellery of sea glass.