In a galaxy far, far away, there is a magic ring…no, wait a minute, wrong story — in a galaxy just down the road called Sam Houston Race Park, there is a magic circus ring called Artania…ah, that’s much better. Artania is a circus (we use the term loosely) that features some of the most artistic horse flesh around. Think Cirque du Soleil mixed with A-list Barnum & Bailey acts, and Cossacks, all inspired by ancient Russian myths, with horses as the stars. The myths used here are about the Scythians, a fierce group of ancient nomads that wandered what is now Russia. Master equestrians, they were said to be “fed from horse blood.” It’s possible the show’s creator, Mairbek Kantemirov, is descended from the Scythians — he’s scion to Russia’s fabled Kantemirov dynasty, perhaps the preeminent trick-horse-riding family in the world — and talent like that has to be in your blood.

Making its U.S. premiere here, Artania also features triple-jointed acrobats and gymnasts, gravity-defying aerialists and jaw-dropping stunt riders cavorting to a New Agey score in a vivid fantasyland hippodrome. While the show sets off sparklers, it’s the horses we come to ogle. They are perfection. Pampered and spoiled, they strut and perform their difficult routines as if they’re the smartest things around. (We’re sure the workaholic horses of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are green with envy.) Premium/VIP tickets get you backstage, up close and personal to the sweaty horses and performers. March 14 through April 12. 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 3 and 7 p.m. Saturdays; 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays. 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For information, call 800-211-3381 or visit $29 to $125.

Sat., March 14; Sun., March 15; Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: March 14. Continues through April 12, 2009


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