Yesteryear comes alive again with the arrival of Legendarium, the world premiere of the latest Big Apple Circus extravaganza. It promises a vicarious trip to the golden age of circuses, when the circus coming to town was the most exciting event of the year.

West Hyler, the director of Big Apple Circus, comes to his role from a theatrical background, most recently as associate director on Broadway for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Jersey Boys."

"The circus traces its beginning back to England in the 1700s," he said. "It began with trick riding. That's where we get the phrases 'dog and pony show' and 'one-horse show.' At that time, the circus ring was designed to be 42 feet in diameter because that was the distance a horse had to travel to reach a full gallop. The size remains exactly the same today.

"The circus has contributed to culture in many ways. When the Brooklyn Bridge was built, its towers were the highest man-made objects. People were afraid to walk across it for fear the concrete would crumble, but when they saw 21 circus elephants march across, they decided it was safe."

If you go
Big Apple Circus
Where: Dulles Town Center, 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Dulles
When: Thursday to Oct. 8
Info: Tickets start at $25; 888-541-3750

Legendarium boasts unified design relating to the finest circuses of the past. The acts are performed to songs by Stephen Foster, Sousa marches and folk songs, popular music drawn from that period. The lighting is designed by the Tony Award winner Howell Binkley of "Jersey Boys."

Hyler looked at acts around the world to find the very best performers. In China he found the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe performing on bicycles and Zhang Fan, who balances on a swaying slack wire. The powerful Quinterion Troupe from Budapest, Hungary executes extraordinary feats involving great risks

"I'm going back to the circus roots with a traditional horse act," she said. ""The children in the audience can see everything because no seat is further than 50 feet from the ring. They may have a little dirt in their laps when the horses gallop, but they don't mind.

"I've always loved all animals.. Different animals require different approaches and training. To prevent them from becoming frightened the first time around the circus, I go through the rehearsals with lights, music and without an audience so they won't be intimidated. The first week of a show may not be perfect, but they learn quickly. I love everything about circus life because of the people, the traveling and that it's never a 9 to 5 job. There's always a smile on my face because I'm passionate about what I do."