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SIOUX CITY -- Hanging over a tank with 35,000 gallons of water isn’t the only thing Morgaine Rosenthal has to worry about when she gets on stage for Cirque Italia.

As show manager with the six-year-old production, she’s charged with making sure the aquatic spectacular lives up to its billing.

Unique? “It’s definitely something you’re not going to see anywhere else,” she says.

Joining the company five years ago, the Georgia native wondered what a tent show like this was going to be like.

“I did theme park shows with three- and six-month contracts,” the aerialist says. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into, especially with all of the traveling.”

Once she saw what the water circus was all about, “I instantly fell in love. It’s very magical. The farthest seat is only 30 or 40 feet away. It’s very personal.”

It’s also a wrinkle for those familiar with circuses.

Performed without animals or any other trappings founding in a traditional circus, Cirque Italia offers a series of daring acts over that 35,000-gallon tank.

Because the performers are also expected to handle other duties, it’s not uncommon to buy concessions from a person who may be hanging over the water minutes later.

“It’s a very family focused show,” says Sarah Kessler, the company’s spokesperson.. “The majority of performers come from circus families,” Rosenthal adds. “Our contortionist is a sixth-generation circus performer.”

Rosenthal, meanwhile, hails from circus school – the San Francisco Circus Center.

A fan since she was a child, she took classes from a retired performer as a child and “stuck with it.”

“It’s sort of the typical story – if you want something, work for it. Don’t give up.”

When interest in traditional circuses began waning and organizations like Ringling Bros. called it quits, performers like Rosenthal wondered where they might ply their trade.

Cirque Italia, which has two units playing around the country and a third (called the “paranormal” unit) prepped for the Halloween season, seemed ideal. Like Cirque du Soleil, it offers daring acts with a twist, but it also includes its own conceits and quirks.

Thus far, Rosenthal says, it has been a big hit, routinely selling out on its stops. Even better, it has inspired others to give it a try.

Her boyfriend – Dee Fernandez – started as a member of the support crew and learned the trade as the show traveled. Now her partner in one of the acts, he’s just as enamored with the business as she.

“For me, it’s important to empower little boys and little girls,” she says. “If you don’t want to take the traditional route and have a 9-to-5 job, there is an option.

“It’s definitely a lifestyle choice. But the work itself doesn’t feel like work.”

While traveling can be grueling, it also offers a chance to see the country.

If Fernandez and Rosenthal sit too long in one place, “we get restless,” she says. “We love the traveling aspect.”

With some 50 employees in the silver company (which hits Sioux City Sept. 13 in the Sears parking lot at Southern Hills Mall), Cirque Italia is like a little traveling community, Rosenthal says. “There are so many moving pieces in this show, it’s like a well-oiled machine.

“We are all working toward the same goal – to put on the best experience possible, ever day, every night. And that’s a unifying thing for us. It brings us together and makes us our own little neighborhood.

“We look out for each other. We live together, work together and play together. You don’t find that in other jobs.”

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