“My earliest memories are having dogs around,” says Nicholas Olate, the soon-to-be 24-year-old member of the renowned variety show The Olate Dogs that’s making a stop at TPAC’s Polk Theater on Friday, Feb. 3.
The Olate Dogs show features a cast of nearly 20 poodle-mix dogs that entertain audiences young and old with tricks like riding scooters, back flips, jumping rope and performing in a conga line.
Nicholas grew up surrounded by dogs in a circus environment. His father, Richard, began rescuing stray dogs from the street when he was a boy in his native Santiago, Chile. At 12 years old, Richard — a third generation circus performer — made his way into the spotlight with his dog act and eventually made his way to the United States where he married his wife, Rebecca, a human cannonball in the circus.
Nicholas has fond memories of being raised in the circus environment. “Growing up in the circus was such an amazing experience because you’re around so many different cultures. Each circus has troupe acts from countries like Russia or China, so there’s always variety,” he says, noting the fun of celebrating someone’s birthday or other get-togethers where all sorts of traditional foods from other cultures are shared.
Nicholas was 6 years old when he became part of the act with his mom and dad. This family affair skyrocketed to stardom when they won the top spot on Season 7 of America’s Got Talent in 2012. Since then, the Olates have been on the road 10 months out of the year performing all over the country, including halftime shows at NBA games, Circus Vargas and a headlining stint at The Palazzo in Las Vegas.
The dogs travel in style, too. “We have a trailer that was built complete with heating and air conditioning and a bath specifically for them. We’ve always been meticulous about how our dogs live,” says Nicholas.
Close to half of the canine cast are rescue dogs, but of all the breeds out there, why poodles?
“My dad always like poodles, I think that’s just a personal thing, but there are also other factors” Nicholas says. “The dogs we have are very light framed, so they’re not real heavy. As they’re doing a lot of acrobatic tricks, if they were heavy dogs they might hurt their joints. Because they’re so light, they can do all the tricks we teach them without having to worry about them hurting themselves,” he adds.
Poodles don’t shed much, either, and they’re hypoallergenic, so there’s no worry about an allergic reaction for audience members who meet the dogs — the $50 VIP ticket includes a meet and greet with the poodles and a photo op.
Noting that the backflip is the hardest trick to teach the dogs, Nicholas says when it’s time to add new poodles to the show, they typically get ones that are around a year to a year-and-a-half old as they’re easier to train at that age. The Olate Dogs show also supports dog rescues and shelters across America.
And there’s a lot more to The Olate Dogs stage show aside from the adorable dog tricks. “We have a variety show that’s basically dog centered,” says Nicholas. “My wife and I also juggle in the show, and she’s awesome at riding unicycles and doing bike tricks. I also sing in the show, and there’s a couple of comedy bits my dad performs. We’re always keeping dogs in the show, but we’re moving more and more toward a variety show with a circus feel,” he adds.