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Big Apple Circus is polished

The bright blue big top has made itself right at home in its new venue, the parking lot of the Bayside Expo Center, and the Big Apple Circus has arrived with one of its most spectacular shows, "Carnevale!"

The beloved clown Grandma (Barry Lubin) is back, hurling popcorn and miming to Pink's "Get the Party Started." The Russian trapeze artists known as the Aniskin Troupe are also on hand again, flying through the air. And as always, equestrienne Katja Schumann and her glorious plumed horses jumping

through hoops are a highlight of the show. New this year are camels, pole climbers, a hula-hoopist, a dog that juggles, and clown Vallery Serebryakov, who manages to be Curly, Larry, and Moe rolled into one. Serebryakov seems to have made every inanimate object in the world his enemy; they rise up to poke him in the eye and knock him flat, and then he bounces back, ready for more.

The fast-paced show, directed by Raffaele De Ritis, is propelled by Rob Slowik's band and the most colorful and fanciful costumes the Big Apple has strutted yet.

Several acts this year are interesting because they cross conventional genres. Andrey Markov starts off with a lively dog act -- they are plumed like Schumann's horses, and they move through a dizzying choreography, clockwise and counterclockwise; one is dressed as a ballerina and pirouettes on her hind legs. Later Markov returns as a virtuoso juggler -- juggling three clubs one-handed, for example. His dogs bring him the objects to juggle, and then one of them joins the juggling act.

Andrey Mantchev and Virgile Peyramaure mingle comedy with feats of strength and hand-balancing. Mantchev plays the ego-driven divo, Peyramaure a valet whose attentions wander between keeping Mantchev aloft (at one point Mantchev is standing on his head on Peyramaure's uplifted foot) and flirting with a woman in the audience.

The camels don't do much beyond running around in a circle and kneeling to bow, but they are gorgeous to look at. The Aniskins do a lot -- the trapezes are suspended on two levels, one even higher than the other, and at the end one member of the troupe climbs to the top of the tent before plunging down into the net.

The Carrillos -- Pedro Carrillo; his wife, Tatiana Scetkovska; and their friend Capitolino Mitrovich Acevedo -- are the stars of this show. In the closing act, there are high jinks on the high wire, with Carrillo and Acevedo arriving by walking backward up the supporting wires. Saturday night Carrillo had a little trouble with his famous back flip (he's the only circus artist in the world currently performing this feat on a tightrope). He landed on his feet both times he tried it, but lost his balance. Still, there were plenty of thrills carried off without such mishaps: Carrillo jumped rope, leaped over Scetkovska, and carried Acevedo, who was riding upright on his shoulders, all the way across the shimmering wire.

Their opening "Aerial Tango" was even more dazzling -- talk about a hard act to follow. Scetkovska and Carrillo exchanged smoldering glances, then climbed to a single trapeze. Once it was swinging at high speed, Scetkovska began to hang from Carrillo's ankles and feet, sometimes upside-down, sometimes with no visible means of support, as they swept across the ring. The audience gasped and screamed and laughed -- which pretty much sums up the whole Big Apple Circus experience, if you don't count the hot dogs.

BIG APPLE CIRCUS, in a performance Saturday afternoon at the Bayside Expo Center (runs through May 9)

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