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Circuses are filthy—no, downright repulsive—places. They reek of elephant shit, rancid popcorn, and (in the performers’ tents) desperation and Thunderbird. But the circus’ seedy reputation took a hit when the of-late-family-oriented town of Las Vegas made a bunch of Quebecois urchins—who turn the Big Top into “performance art”—a semi-permanent attraction. Fuck that. Now that it’s been effectively Solieled, can we please return the circus to its excrement- and booze-filled roots? Would-be saviors or not, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus starts out at an immediate disadvantage: without animals crapping all over the place. But the troupe recently spent seven months performing in a suitably grimy locale (New York City), and, at a glance, it has humanity to spare. With the bullwhip-toting Mistress Philomena directing the action, acts range from the traditional (Mr. Pennygaff, who swallows swords, sabres, scissors, and neon tubes) to the racy (Tanya Gagne’s Infamous Trapeze Strip Tease) to the absurdly timely (Homeland Security Song and Dance). Regrettably, there is no carnival of the deformed. There is, however, the Autonomadic Bookmobile, which features “yogic feats rarely imagined, proof of frogs falling from the sky, alleged Moorish blessing oils, tales of Canabal [sic] societies,” and more. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus brings its “High Heels & Red Noses” tour to D.C. at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at Signal 66, 926 N St. NW. $10. (202) 842-3436. (Mike DeBonis)