PALMETTO -- Manuel Rebecchi comes from one of Europe's most famous circus families, and when he came to America he traveled across the country visiting as many circuses as he could.
"He saw the kind of circuses Americans were enjoying, and he said, 'I can give them something different,' " said Chante DeMoustes.
DeMoustes is the producer and chief operating officer of Cirque Italia, the company that Rebecchi founded in response to a void he perceived in the American circus world.
Cirque Italia, which is based in Sarasota, has just started its second national tour. It will be in Palmetto this weekend, with six performances under a blue-and-white big top on
U.S. 41/U.S. 301, near the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
There are no animals in Cirque Italia, just some of the best aerialists, acrobats, clowns and other performers from all over the world celebrating circus arts.
Several of the performers are in the "Guinness Book of World Records." One is Coco the clown, who holds the record for riding the world's smallest bicycle -- Coco is almost 6 feet tall; the bike is about 6 inches high -- and the Juggling Fusco Twins, who set the record by juggling five clubs for 57 minutes.
It's closer to a European type of circus than a traditional American one, DeMoustes said, with the feel of an elegant performing arts event rather than the nostalgic earthiness of typical American circuses.
"In Europe, a circus is like a gala," she said. "It's an elite thing to go to. Even the children get dressed up."
One of Cirque Italia's most distinctive features is a round water stage. It's 40 feet across and about 4 feet high. The audience encircles the stage, and performers appear around and above, and occasionally in, the water. The water lends and ethereal look and feel to the proceedings.
At least one Palmetto resident is excited about the circus but wary of its location, at an intersection with heavy traffic.
"It's a great thing to have this attraction in Palmetto, and in Manatee County," said county commission candidate Corie Holmes. "I don't know why we have to put it there, when we have access to the fairgrounds."Rebecchi wanted to keep Cirque Italia affordable, though, and for the Palmetto show, a parent and a child can get in for as little as $20.
There are three levels of seating, and prices for adults are $20, $30 and $50. Each adult can bring in one child, 12 and under, for free. Tickets for additional children are $10, $15 and $45.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The exact address is 102 Riviera Dunes Way, Palmetto.
For tickets or more information, visit CirqueItalia.com or 941-704-8572.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.