NEW YORK – On Dec. 6, more than 1,600 New York City area vision – and hearing-impaired children experienced the joy and wonder of circus magic under the Big Top Tent at Lincoln Center at the Big Apple Circus’ Circus of the Senses.

Headsets enabled vision-impaired children to hear a lively play-by-play description of the performance in the ring. Big Apple Circus artistic director Paul Binder and creative director Michael Christensen provided the animated narration to help the children experience the antics of the clowns and the astounding feats of the acrobats, jugglers, animals and other performers.

Sign language interpreters, spotlighted at ringside, provided narration for the hearing-impaired children.

The audience for the Big Apple Circus sits just a few feet away from the performers. It’s like having a circus in your living room (I’m not saying that’s something you’d want, necessarily – although some of you parents may feel like you’ve already got one – I’m just saying it’s wonderfully upclose and personal.) The tent was abuzz with non-stop action, color, music, lights and laughter.

After the show, several of the children were invited into the circus ring for a “touch session.” They were able to feel the sawdust, touch the fabric of the elegant costumes and meet the clowns and some of the performers – both two- and four-legged performers.

A wagonload of puppies was particularly popular – but it was hard to tell who had more fun, the kids or the puppies.

“Don’t be scared,” said Sonja, 9, advising her skittish friend on proper puppy protocol. “Be friendly.”

With the acrobats’ help, Ashley, 8, did somersaults and jumped on a small trampoline. “You look funny,” she soberly informed a clown. “That’s my job,” he told her.

This year marks the 14th annual Circus of the Senses at Lincoln Center, part of the not-for-profit Big Apple Circus community outreach programs, which also include the Clown Care Unit, Circus For All! and Beyond The Ring. Circus of the Senses is also presented at major cities on the Big Apple Circus tour schedule, including Atlanta, Boston and Washington.

Rosemary, 8, is a veteran of the Circus of the Senses. She’s been to it “a lot” of times – “when I was little, too.” She highly recommends it.

– Carolyn Rummel