Send in the clowns -- or not

Let's face it, folks. Circuses stink. Literally and figuratively.

Clowns are unfunny and strident at best, and at worst, psychologically scarring previews for kids of humanity's freakish existential dilemma ("Mommy, why can't that man stop smiling? Why can't he stop smiling, Mommy?!!!"). And watching lions and tigers forced to perform in front of gaping humans -- sorta like that sick business known as the rodeo -- makes us root for a quadrupedal victory.

Hey, we don't have a PETA membership framed on our cubicle wall -- during Chrissie Hynde's recent anti-carnivore tantrum at the Bronco Bowl, we regretted not wearing our favorite T-shirt as testimony to our culinary habits: "If God didn't want us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?" But the idea of animals as nutrition seems at least more utilitarian than animals for amusement. And though we've never sampled a tiger steak, we understand it's quite stringy.

Ringling Brothers' white-trash version of Cirque de Soleil, which recently set up its tent at Valley View Mall, isn't fooling us -- it's a big-ticket version of those traveling carnivals that opened beside the gas station near our parents' house and stayed until some kid was killed in an accident. No, for a circus experience shorn of dung odor and stupid predator tricks, we'll stick to TITAS, one of the city's most reliable venues for international performing arts. They're importing Canada's Cirque Eloize to present a high-flying spectacle that's rumored to be more intimate than your average circus experience. There's not a bad seat in McFarlin Auditorium, but considering the leaps and bounds in this production, the $10 TITAS second-balcony seats -- Dallas' best-kept entertainment-bargain secret -- might be among the best available.

The 15 young artists who compose Cirque Eloize are graduates of the National Circus School of Montreal. They came together in 1993 to offer something unique -- big-top spectacle with a plot. They promise that a narrative thread unites the acrobats, musicians, and stunt performers, who'll interact furiously rather than toil in separate rings for this Dallas premiere. The show is meat-free but, alas, clown-inclusive. It's about time we confronted our childhood traumas, anyway.

Jimmy Fowler

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Jimmy Fowler

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