Circus in Manassas

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Warm in winter, cool in summer, and filled with amazing acts in every season, the Big Apple Circus's pair of Italian-made big tops contains the best of several generations' worth of circus traditions. A look at any show's cast finds a complex network of venerable European circus families passing the arts of juggling and trapeze artistry down through the years, while the tents' motors and seating make for a comfortably modern spectator experience.

You might never guess that the troupe started small in 1974, when American circus artists Paul Binder and Michael Christensen joined forces as a juggling act on the streets of Europe. They moved from streetlights to spotlights in a hurry, appearing on the stage of the Nouveau Cirque de Paris, before returning to the U.S. and creating their own not-for-profit circus in 1976 and raising their first tent in New York's Battery Park.

21100 Dulles Town Circle
Sterling,
VA
US

At Cirque Italia, aerialists and acrobats look down to see a very unusual set: a 35,000-gallon water tank. As the high-energy acts swing from ropes and flip over trapezes, fountain jets below crisscross in mesmerizing patterns. Among them, the bicycle of death-defying Capitolino Mitrovich navigates a high wire strung precariously across the tent.

On the ground, the strongmen of Duo A&A put their muscle-bound physiques to work, pulling feats of strength such as balancing from each other's heads on one hand and unloading a clown car full of groceries. In a nod to the aquatic setting, Corissa Wilson does a mermaid act in midair. And between acts, Coco the Clown?who once set a Guinness World Record for riding a 5-inch bicycle?keeps the crowd's spirits high as the human pyramid. Other world record holders, The Juggling Fusco Twins, put their club-juggling abilities on display alongside a hula hooper who prances alongside a ring of water and an Italian singing act that performs while upside down. Many of the acts come from around the world, whether they're twisting and flipping atop a towering coat rack or manipulating beams of laser light in the Laserman 260 show in the towering 70-foot tall big-top tent.

8120 Carroll Avenue
Takoma Park,
MD
US

Looking to wrap their cerulean pincers around the Atlantic League’s Liberty Division with a dominant second half, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs drown opposing batters under a steady stream of fastballs and outfield dives. Fresh off his career as a Blue Crabs player, first-year manager Patrick Osborn befuddles pitchers with a lineup of crustaceous power swingers that redefines what it means to pinch-hit. Hurler Michael Schlact continues to compose symphonies of whiffing bats with an ERA of 3.72, and June 2011 Player of the Month Yunesky Sanchez casts a defensive net over the shortstop position and marauding Hamburglars.

11765 Saint Linus Dr
Waldorf,
MD
US

Ranked among Ticketmaster's Top 25 Most Requested Family Events for five consecutive years, UniverSoul Circus grants an interactive spectacle of acrobatic stunts, dance, and comedy set to popular urban sounds. With its swirling lights and pulsing beats, the circus's resemblance to a blowout concert tour is no accident: production designer Tom Marzullo has created internationally touring stage shows for Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, and Prince.

As hosts, a troupe of improv comics slip laughs in between the gasps and draw the crowd even closer into the action. Meanwhile, the production makes jaws drop farther with trained elephants, illusions featuring a live tiger, a head-balancing act from Vietnam, and female contortionists from Ethiopia. These make up just a few of the globally sourced performers, others of whom hail from locales as diverse as Colombia, South Africa, Russia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

6200 Annapolis Rd.
Landover Hills,
MD
US