By City Guide News Desk

Under the Big Top

  |  Theater & Performances  

Although Mardi Gras isn’t on the calendar until February, the spirit of Carnival appears nightly under the big top, in Big Apple Circus’ new production, Carnevale! The circus uses an international collection of trapeze artists, clowns, gymnasts and trained animals to present an exciting, colorful show. One of the best acts is seemingly the simplest: Aleysa Goulevich uses hula hoops, and starting out with just a few, continues to add them until she has her whole body covered in hoops; my daughter called her a human slinky. The clowns Grandma and Vallery entertain in between — and during — the acts. Their physical comedy is so developed that each might have been able to perform in a circus as one of the main acts. Another pair, Andrey Mantchev and Virgile Peyramaure, combine clowning with gymnastic prowess, balancing each other while flirting with an audience member. Aspiring circus performers will be drawn to 12-year-old performer Christian Atayde Stoinev, a gymnast whose parents work behind the scenes at the Big Apple Circus. He is likely to inspire hordes of kids to sign up for advanced tumbling classes. Though the circus is small-scale, the quality is extremely high — from the aerialists who jump rope and play leapfrog on a high wire, to the juggler who gets tossed extra balls from dogs. The dogs have their own act, as do horses and a miniature pony. The only act not on par with the others was the camels — perhaps partly due to the intense smell they produce. At two hours and 15 minutes, this is a long circus, and cutting one act would likely make younger audience members happier. At the show I attended, the 3-year-old behind me squealed and belly-laughed through the first act; after intermission (the second act started around 8pm), she sobbed till she fell asleep. In the spirit of honesty, I confess that when my kids were younger, I sometimes misled them that a show ended at intermission, but you wouldn’t want to miss the second act of this circus. There is also an extended pre-show for those who crave even more circus activities; the band plays and a few performers offer snippets of their shows. Info: Where: Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, Broadway at 63rd Street When: Through January 11, 2004. There are matinees, early evening and evening performances. How much: Tickets are $18-$72 Note: Be aware that each show is likely to conflict with a child’s mealtime and that food selection is of the junk and junkier variety. For more info: (212) 721-6500 or (212) 307-4100;