The Cirque comes to d’town! |

The Cirque comes to d’town!

Luis Sallo of the Willy Family performing troupe rides a "loop-the-loop" in a cage Wednesday with four other motorcyclists during a rehearsal for Cirque d'Aspen. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Performing dogs yip from behind cages, a juggler splits the air with high-flying pins, acrobats squeeze themselves into skintight suits, and a high-wire ballerina climbs her ladder: The circus is in town!But the second annual Cirque d’ Aspen is not like the typical big-top event; the sophisticated, high-energy performance features 26 international circus stars and transforms the Aspen High School gym into another world.”I was born in the circus,” said Alex Chimal, a third-generation performer from the Yucatan in Mexico, who now lives in Houston. The speed juggler’s hands move in a blur as balls ricochet like machine-gun bullets off the ground – and that was just during his warmup Wednesday.

“Not many people can juggle that fast,” he said.Two bodies in tight, hooded suits hang from straps over the center ring, balancing and contorting into unlikely shapes. It’s hard to believe they’re human, but when the act ended during Wednesday’s rehearsal, a spry Vilen and Alexandre Naidenkine casually take a seat in the bleachers.”It’s like a drug,” Alexandre said. While the travel gets tiring at times, he’s been to every U.S. state other than Alaska and Hawaii.

Originally from Vornezc, Russia, south of Moscow, the Naidenkines travel the world with their aerial statue act, their father Genia operating the wires and their stepmother, Berengere, close at hand.The Willy Family are a daredevil motorcycle act from South America. All four fit themselves into a small metal cage and ride loop-the-loops, missing one another by just inches in a perfect choreography – but when they said the skiers they saw careening down Aspen Mountain looked far too dangerous. They are the only returning act to this second year of Cirque d’Aspen.”We thought big,” said Patti Zanin, a member of the youth center board and a producer of the event.

Sarah Visnic, director of the Aspen Youth Center, stressed that those who saw last year’s performance are in for a whole new group this year.Tickets for Cirque d’Aspen are still available at $150 for adults, $75 for kids and discount $50 “Clown Corner” seats. VIP tables at ringside go for $5,000 per 10-person table. Contact the Belly Up box office or go to Performances are at 7 p.m. today and Friday, and 5 p.m. Saturday. Proceeds support the Aspen Youth Center, and ticket fees are partially tax deductible.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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