The Great Moscow Circus

When night shadows fall, I’ll always recall out there across the sea
Twilight falling down on some little town;
It’s fresh in my memory.
I hear mother pray, and to her baby say “Don’t cry,”
This is her lullaby …. There’ll be blue birds over …

There was a time when, if you displayed radical tendencies, people thought you were somehow linked to Russia. At work one day, one of my bosses assumed I had visited the Soviet Union, when I’ve barely ever left Australia. Even the Great Moscow Circus was regarded as being subversive. But, like the Bolshoi ballet, this great circus truly was the flagship of Soviet Russia. It toured the West and put on performances that stressed the importance of the culture of eastern Europe. There were many skillful tricks by performers and dancing bears but every circus act told a story. It is sad that such a great idea came to such a calamitous end. While Communist Party secretary Brezhnev introduced a massive arms buildup and widespread military intervention, particularly in the Middle East and Africa the Great Moscow Circus flourished.

Lachlan and Ian at the Capalaba, Brisbane. On our training ride for the ‘Tour de Brisbane’ Lachlan and I came across this meme from the past. • Has the Soviet era made a comeback in Capalaba? • Is Putin attempting to take over the outer suburbs of Brisbane via the high wire? The house behind was not occupied and was one of the poorer buildings in the neighborhood but provided electricity to inflate the Moscow clown. We continued on our ride in the hope that a free Palestine would one day become possible. The SU position on Palestine was far more ‘cloudy’ than ours. Photo: Lachlan Hurse

One such act was the “Cranes,” a flying trapeze troupe. The “Cranes” were named after and themed by a song depicting fallen Soviet World War II soldiers who fly up into the sky as cranes, instead of being buried in the ground.

The show, set to classical music, focused on the story being told, rather than on the incredible display of skill. One of the performers threw a “quad” (4 backwards rotations before being caught by the catcher), an impressive and incredibly rare trick, which would have been the focus of the act in any other kind of show; nevertheless, the performer said that the most important part of the act was the way the it was an aesthetic experience. He said it was not the individual skills, “but the simultaneity of our aerial gymnastics and the psychological effectiveness of our acting, all of it working together to move an audience…other circuses have first-rate performers, but we do something special — each act creates a small vignette. These are playlets that give spectators not only the flavor of our life, but also reveal the soul of Soviet man.” Aesthetics were very important to the Soviet circus, and every acrobat received formal ballet schooling.

Under the Soviet regime, there were over 70 circus buildings in the Soviet states, as well as a specialist training-school system. Thousands of performers worked for the circus organisation. They were all State employees; salaries were not high in comparison to the West, but employment was secure, and equipment, costumes, travel and accommodation were all provided, as well as a pension upon retirement.

The present company employs several hundred performers and tours as the “Great Moscow State Circus“.

The Moscow State Circus is a state-owned enterprise. The circus organisation was threatened by the dismantling of the Soviet Union, and by some performers’ inclination to seek better-paid foreign contracts. In June 2007, an attempt to privatise the building was initiated, strongly opposed by company director Leonid Kostyuk, among many others. Eventually President Vladimir Putin eliminated the building from the list of state properties to be privatised. A large number of artistes now belong once again to the State system.

Reminiscent of the English song, White Cliffs of Dover
When night shadows fall, I’ll always recall out there across the sea
Twilight falling down on some little town;
It’s fresh in my memory.
I hear mother pray, and to her baby say “Don’t cry,”
This is her lullaby…. There’ll be blue birds over. the white cliffs of Dover …

The Bolshoi Circus (1976) – the flagship of the Soviet era

Reference
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_State_Circus