“Spandex and Lycra are our friends!” says Mirena Rada, costume designer for Big Apple Circus's latest show, Carnivale. Rada's designs for acrobats and aerialists rely heavily on four-way stretch fabrics including stretch velvet, “because it gives you luxury but it's also very paintable.”

For this year's carnival theme the designer researched carnivals and festivals around the world, especially Venice, Rio, and New Orleans. But after a while she put away the research in search of something more abstract. She says, “I wanted to allude to it, but not be a slave to it.” For an aerialist's skirt Rada replaced the ruffles commonly seen in Rio with petals to mimic the silhouette. She says, “I wanted the fluff and the color and the festivity of it all but without the ruffles because that's what you expect.” The Aladdin theme for the camel act comes from the “Oriental” looks featured in many Venetian carnival costumes and references the desert origins of the animals. One performer's insect wings are a holdover from a butterfly dream sequence that was cut from the final show but Rada kept because they fit into the exotic mix.

Another influence came from a series of Brazilian paintings she once saw that used big circles and dots and had what she calls a retro, pop quality to it, another twist on the traditional leopard-print costumes of Rio's carnival floats.