The greatest little show on Earth is back at Glen Echo Park, but just for the weekend -- so hurry! hurry! hurry!

The Big Apple Circus, a charming one-ring affair under a bright big top, puts more emphasis on intimacy than on spectacle. It's probably the only circus with moments you could call "delicate," such as Japanese national treasure Koma Zuru's exquisite top-spinning turn, or the lyrical bit with two clowns balancing soap bubbles on their noses.

This year the circus acts are loosely assembled under a Carnavale theme, and it all begins exuberantly with a Mardi Gras parade that leaves folks sitting ringside dusted in confetti. Naturally, the traditional circus sights, sounds -- and sawdust-plus smells -- are all included, too:

The two Woodcock elephants and Katja Schumann's splendid Arabian horses still thunder by right past your nose.

Swiss acrobat David Dimitri does several back flips on the tightrope, and his partner Marie Pierre Benac, from France, one-ups him by dancing across the wire en pointe.

Daring Dolly Jacobs (daughter of famous Ringling Bros. clown Lou Jacobs) sports a centerfold smile while doing unthinkably dangerous things suspended from two tiny rings.

Mexican aerialists The Flying Goanas swing through the air so close you can feel the breeze.

The live band, perched above the ringside curtain, wittily combines rock elements with traditional circus oom-pah-pah. And there are cotton candy and snow cones in every hue, and a tasteful -- by circus standards -- selection of souvenirs.

But best of all, at the Big Apple Circus you can see the performers' faces, and the charge from that close-up contact puts much showier circuses to shame.

The Big Apple Circus, at Glen Echo Park through Aug. 16.