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About the Moscow Circus

The Circus is one of the world’s ancient performing arts. It is a truly wondrous spectacle- a magic kingdom of artistry, daring and grace, where performers are held in the highest esteem and are considered equals of classical musicians and ballet dancers.

The Circus was immensely popular throughout the Middle Ages when tumblers, dancers, jesters, and performing bears entertained at fairs and markets. Townsfolk and villagers would travel for miles in order to witness the extraordinary feats.

The Moscow Circus is an institution that originated in Russia two centuries ago. In England in 1768, the first formal Circus was put together by Philip Astley, and consisted mainly of trick riding segments, tumbling, and choreographed wrestling. In 1793, one of Astley’s horsemen, Charles Hughes, introduced the formal circus to Russia as a private performance for Catherine the Great in the Royal Palace of Saint Petersburg.

The evolution of the Circus as a bona fide art form attracted artists from other fields and many of Russia’s great writers and directors, such as Gorky, Chekhov and Kuprin, contributed to its vocabulary. In 1919, the Circus was nationalized and it began to gain worldwide attention as many unique artists emerged. The circus grew to include acrobats and jugglers, high-wire walkers and trapeze artists, trick cyclists, aerialists, and clowns. Animal trainers abounded, most notably Nikolai Gladilschikov, Boris Eder, and the first female trainers, Margarita Nazarova and Irina Bugrimova.

The Soviets founded The Foundation for the Continuing Excellence of the Circus Arts in 1920 after deciding Circus performers must receive a consistently high standard of training. Students train for four years in various specialties and skills, and then are invited to create their own acts. They can utilize the skills of the school’s directors, composers, and choreographers, and often call upon the expertise of Circus producers. Once the act had been approved by the Circus Board, their professional careers began.  The State supplied everything needed, from costumes and equipment to animals, make-up and special effects. Travel and hotel expenses were taken care of by the government as well, and employment was guaranteed for twenty years with a full pension upon retirement.

The Moscow Circus performs in as many as thirty countries annually. It also employs more then 24,000 people, including 6,000 performers and 7,000 animals. Each year, more than 100 circus collectives perform in the regions of the former U.S.S.R., in seventy permanent buildings, giving up to nine shows a week. Additionally, there are tent, ice, and aquatic versions of the circus to supplement the collectives.

The Moscow Circus’ performers are held in extraordinary high regard and are afforded the greatest respect throughout the world, with more than 100 million people a year attending their performances. In order to create the visual intimacy necessary to fully appreciate these acts, the Moscow Circus uses only a single ring. There are no gimmicks, no padding. Every act is unique - every facet is incomparable.

The emblem of the Moscow Circus symbolizes a circus performer reaching for the stars. The many years of training and hard work these artists dedicate to perfecting their skills enables them to develop the courage and physical excellence necessary to expand the boundaries of their potential, to establish new possibilities, and to infuse their art with the spirit of magic.

While each of the artists in the circus is the best at their respective crafts, together these performers form a thrilling, vibrant whole. The Moscow Circus carries on the centuries old tradition in splendid style and embraces the feats of daring, fantasy, and imagination that have long enthralled audiences across the world.