Samantha Kulinski has been a performer in Cirque Italia for just over a year, and she’s excited to perform in her home state.

Kulinski, 26, is a Stevens Point native and is among 16 performers in the water circus show that opened Thursday in Eau Claire and continues through the weekend.

“I’m an aerialist; I do acrobatics and dance in the air,” Kulinski explained.

Kulinski’s five-minute solo show involves her doing a routine using a 3-foot-wide circle while water fountains spray all around her.

While at Stevens Point High School, Kulinski performed on the school’s dance team. Outside of school, she got involved in outdoor events like rock climbing.

“Finding Cirque, it was the perfect combination of the adventure-based outdoor sports and the beauty of dance,” she explained.

“What I love about aerial arts is you have to have a combination of strength and flexibility, and you have to do it 30 feet in the air.”

She took classes in Stevens Point, and trained with a troupe in Chicago for three years before landing her spot with Cirque Italia.

Kulinski said they perform between seven and 11 shows every week, 11 months of the year.

“It’s the greatest job in the world, getting to travel and perform for hundreds of people. And it’s a beautiful show.”

The tent is set up to hold about 1,100 patrons. The show is done over a 35,000-gallon water stage, and the farthest seats from the stage are only 40 feet away.

“You can see their faces and reaction, and that gives us a lot of energy,” Kulinski said. “The audience is mesmerized by it.”

Kulinski is excited about seeing some familiar faces in the crowd, not just here in Eau Claire, but also upcoming shows in Appleton, Oshkosh and Green Bay.

A young audience member at Thursday night’s performance expressed eager anticipation for the production.

“That’s the biggest tent I have ever seen,” said Evan P., age 8, of Wausau. “I can’t wait to see what’s inside!”

Another circus attendee already is a fan of the spectacle.

“We saw that a Cirque was coming, so we instantly bought tickets for the whole family. Seeing any of the Cirque shows is a fantastic treat!” Paula Staphne of Chippewa Falls said.

Sarah Kessler, Cirque Italia publicist, said the show was created in 2012. The idea was to have a fun traveling circus, without animals, and incorporating water into the show. The circus still has jugglers, contortionists, clowns and other typical circus performers who are from all over the world.

“It adds to the visuals and the performance,” Kessler said of the water display. “It gives a different spin to the show.”

Like Kulinski, Kessler raved about the small tent and how close all patrons sit to the stage.

“It’s an intimate setting,” she said.