ABU DHABI // What has one red tent, four Mexican trapeze artists, a levitating woman, a well-behaved tiger, a shrieking clown and a runaway duck named Charlie?
The Circus Sarrasani, of course, a 110-year-old German troupe performing in Khalifa Park through April 6.
Audience members at yesterday's opening-night show gasped at the group's death-defying acts - then doubled over in laughter as the clown, "Yellow," recruited four men from the crowd for an only moderately embarrassing trick.
"The artists are very professional," said Bettina Lebrun, an Abu Dhabi resident from Germany who brought her children after she heard about the show from her embassy.
Her 12-year-old daughter, Elisa, said she particularly enjoyed a high-flying duo who hung and swung from the ceiling, each with a rope around one ankle.
"I will never be an artist," Elisa said. "It's too dangerous!"
"Actually, we felt a little scared," concurred Kuku Paloma, 30, from the Philippines, who received a complimentary ticket from the hotel she works for.
One of the trapeze artists attempting a daring flip slipped and fell into a net. He gamely climbed back up, tied a black bag around his head and did another trick - blindfolded.
Khaled Juma, an Abu Dhabi resident from Dubai, brought his wife and two sons, aged 4 and 3.
"This is the first time to the circus for them," Mr Juma said. "We found out from the advertisements on Sheikh Zayed Road."
As they waited for the show to start the boys bounced on a trampoline outside, grinning.
"They're very excited about it," Mr Juma said, adding that his sons were particularly thrilled about the prospect of seeing animals.
"They love animals."
Charlie the duck and the adolescent white tiger were the only animal acts, but the acrobats, dancers and other entertainers put on a rousing two-hour show.
There were pantalooned drummers from Portugal who twirled strings of fire.
There was a German magician - circus director Andre Sarrasani -who decapitated and re-capitated a smiling assistant.
There were Ukrainian strongmen who strained and shook as one man balanced upside-down on the other's head.
And there were three clowning acrobats on a giant trampoline, dressed in black suits and sunglasses.
One backflipped furiously, landed neatly, then winked and straightened his tie. Another literally jumped out of his suit-pants, revealing striped long underwear.
Some children grinned and giggled. Others stared open-mouthed. A few looked slightly concerned.
Any anxiety was assuaged by "Yellow", the screaming clown with pink-fringed ears. He mimed to a falsetto opera song then joked around with children, vigorously shaking their hands.
Abu Dhabi Municipality's community services department arranged the circus's visit as part of an effort to organise community events in parks.
Tickets for the Abu Dhabi show cost from Dh95 to Dh495 for children aged 3 to 12 and Dh125 to Dh595 for adults. Children under 3 can attend for free, as long as they do not need their own seat. Details at itp.net/tickets/circus.