Compact circus is a delight in its big tent

From Kenya and China, Ethiopia and Bulgaria, Russia, France and Mongolia, a new generation of young stars join the Big Apple Circus for “Dance On,” this season’s charming show. There’s very little talking: just one dazzling display after another. Tickets for Big Apple cost less than they did last year, and the show is mercifully shorter — two tight hours of fun.

Three male clowns pace the program, hauling kids up to dance on the ring and fly above it. Grandma (the lead clown) and his henchmen flirt with mommies and polish the bald pates of daddies.

Breathtaking Russian aerialist Regina Dobrovitskaya swings on her fat cable high above our heads. The Wuqiao Chinese acrobats change unicycles in midstream or ride them and jump rope at the same time — but several acts, notably Girma Tshehai’s brilliant bounce-juggling off a multi-tiered Plexiglas synthesizer, struck me as something a particularly tech-savvy kid with great coordination could figure out how to do at home. The Kenyan Boys, who form human pyramids, also invite imitation.

One great act after another culminates in the second half, with the animals. Jenny Vidbel, one of the few Americans on the bill, brings a couple of dogs, a trio of mountain goats and a dozen white Shetland ponies to create one of the gentlest, most magical visions I’ve ever seen in a circus ring. The act concludes with a rearing stallion, but it’s the ponies, nuzzling young fans and circling in two directions, that will stay with you.

Big Apple Circus
Through January 9
Damrosch Park Lincoln Center
62nd between Columbus
& Amsterdam Aves.
888-541-3750; $15-92;
www.bigapplecircus.org



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