Article about the circus
Not “circus people”, but “circus people”. On “circus people” will be offended – this is an insult, like “Jews, Ukrainians”. Because circus-a special nationality, a small people numbering about five thousand. Circus people marry each other, give birth to circus children, and remain in the circus for the rest of their lives – as cashiers, ushers, and administrators.They are all carriers of ancient knowledge, consisting of many years of training and a million secrets passed down from generation to generation. Some circus dynasties date back to pre-revolutionary times. Almost all circuses in Russia are still stray, children still grow up on sawdust and with their mother’s milk absorb something that allows circus people to survive in any circumstances, to walk on a tightrope until old age, to sleep in trailers, to command wild animals. Circus life, we remember it from childhood and from books, is surrounded by secrets – perhaps imaginary. I want to find out how it works, what kind of people they are, and what the answer is. And here I am going to the city of Zheleznogorsk with a population of one hundred thousand people, where a show called “Roman Korobko’s Moscow circus”is on tour.
STAR OF THE PROVINCE
“You’ll be gone in three days!” It’s boring … – Roma warns me on the phone – we don’t have anything special here, animals don’t get electrocuted, you can’t drink, prohibition, we will quickly run out of topics for conversation. When there is no performance – we sit around and get bored…
The circus is owned by a family – mom, dad and Roma. Parents – the former aerialists, Roma illusionist and sprechstalmeister (lead). He is a two-meter-tall blond man with a round Russian face, who looks like a Troubadour from a cartoon about Bremen town musicians. He performs magic tricks with his wife Natasha, a slender beauty with hair as light and white as cotton candy. Father’s name is Roman Panteleevich, so the circus, it turns out, obviously belongs to both father and son.
The backstage part of the circus, however, looks very boring, there is not even anything to photograph. It looks like a household town of guest workers-identical trailers, washbasins, stools, wires, cans. Everything is very ascetic, no circus details – ordinary people in tracksuits, talking to each other about computers, about bearings, about fishing, and not a word about the circus. A selection of Soviet circus songs plays from the loudspeakers: “Take care of the clowns, take care of the clowns, so that it’s fun on-earth…”. The recording takes about half an hour, then starts again. It starts to rain, everyone hides in their campsites, except for Smoking or walking with the dogs. A man in his fifties walks past me, carrying a cage of mice under his arm. Returns already without mice-fed the pythons. A blond child crawls out from under a plastic tent: “my name is Dragomir, and you?”Pointing a water pistol at me. From the trailer, his grandmother calls him, and he runs away. I’m waiting for the rehearsal to start – but “incompetents are rehearsing, freaks are making up”. Still, however, the bears rehearse regularly, twice a day, but no one can go to the circus at this time, except for the trainers. I walk through puddles among wet closed trailers and am puzzled. What to talk about with artists? How do you turn an umbrella on your head? Well, I’ve been doing it for twenty years, so what’s the point of explaining it? Ask “what are you hiding from me?”It’s kind of stupid. I go to the trailer to Roma, maybe he will teach me to show tricks?
“Look, how do you do it?”
“Don’t touch the props, bad luck. I don’t like people asking me how I do it. What’s the difference? This is the first thing we are taught: never tell anyone the secrets of magic tricks under any circumstances. You’ll find out how I do it, and you won’t be interested. It’s a show, enjoy it. Take any card. Remember? Now look…
Roma has about ten different decks in a drawer: in one, all the cards turn into aces by themselves, in the other-they tear and stick together… But you can’t touch the props.
– Actually, the secrets of all tricks are very simple, there are not many of them. Almost all of them are taken from Houdini in one way or another. When I watch other people’s tricks, I can guess roughly how it is done, but I never know exactly. The skill of the illusionist is how beautiful and original he can design his number. Take the Bentley and Zhiguli of the sixth model – in principle, they are arranged in the same way – four wheels, the engine, the difference in the details of execution… But I have a small guillotine for my finger. We’re going to cut it off for you…
I am most interested in the “Mental magic” trick, during which Roma and his wife demonstrate something like telepathy. Natasha stands with her back to the hall. At this time, Roma takes different items from the audience, and Natasha guesses them: “the Next question is really difficult. Try to guess, Natasha, what I have in my hands this time?”…”This is something resembling a panel from a car radio …” among the items often come across documents-Natasha can guess both the number of the certificate and the name of its owner. It seems that Roma and Natasha have some kind of code, perhaps based on the wording of the question, intonation, pauses. But there is something else: I don’t understand how you can encode, for example, a person’s last name or a ten-digit number of a banknote. Or, if Roma and Natasha were able to learn a system that encodes everything in the world, then they are really wizards.
– While in “Mental magic” are the props?
“I have a Japanese video camera inserted into my microphone, and Natasha has a small device in her eyelashes that projects the image directly onto the retina…
– The truth is that Natasha really reads minds. Sometimes, the audience gets annoyed: “Hey, you’re not a psychic, show me how you do it.” They’re not idiots, are they? Of course, I’m not a psychic. Yes, this is not a mystical ability, it is an illusion. But this is called “illusion”, everything is fair. Although I can move objects at a distance. I’ll show you in Moscow, but it won’t work here.
A kilometer-long queue gathers for the performance. Almost all the tickets were purchased at a low price by a local clothing store, which is holding a campaign “Make a purchase for 600 rubles – get a ticket to the circus”. Romina’s mother Galya is sitting at the ticket office, and her father Roman Panteleevich, heavy, bald, and healthy as a bodyguard, is checking tickets.
The performance at the Korobko circus is the most classic, designed in the spirit and style of the great Soviet circus. The circus itself looks like an American flag: red and white stripes on the outside and stars on a blue background inside. Roma is a very stylish sprechstalmeister. “Dear audience… Attention, the most difficult trick of category x is being performed… Aaaaaaaaaaapplication… Thank the mayor of Zheleznogorsk, without whose help our tour simply would not have taken place…” behind the scenes, the artists mimic each other, the clown in the crack between the scenes looks for victims for their reprises: many numbers are made with the participation of random spectators. If there is any hitch, Roma always says the same phrase: “Dear viewers, please do not interfere. Don’t mix beer with vodka.” Everyone laughs and the tension is relieved. In General, as a rule, there are no hitches, everything is very technical, as per the schedule.
Having worked out their number, the artists, throwing sports jackets over their suits, run away to their trailers, change their clothes and again turn from the celestials into ordinary Soviet people. They all travel as families: bear trainers live in one campsite, an air gymnast with an equalizer lives in another, and a clown and his wife live in a third. There is a net curtain in the door of each car, a TV and a small dog behind each curtain. Two campsites are occupied by a large family of Kudzinovs-parents show rooms with wild animals, their daughter Oksana – with dogs, and her husband Andrey works “original genre” – holds a knife in his teeth, on which there is a bookcase of trays and glasses. By the way, it seems that you can get into the circus world without hereditary roots and special education – to do this, you need to marry someone from the circus. Andrew previously worked as an electrician, but he married Oksana and became an artist, the room with the bookcase took two years. Next year, Oksana and Andrey will go with the child, Oksana is already in the fifth month. By the way, do you think that a pregnant woman should not do somersaults?
I can’t stop wondering how different they are in the arena. What is commonly called creativity is practically absent in their work – every gesture, every look is worked out, there is no freedom and spontaneity. Instead, there is a ritual. Circus life in General is filled with rituals, here, for example, almost everything is called special words. “Point your finger,” says Roma-Teza. Sturbance. Uniformitarian. Forging. Sheetmaster”. You can’t say “last”, only “final”, and you can’t do a lot of other things: sit with your back to the arena, open umbrellas, click seeds. Some artists have developed a whole system of rules: before a performance, for example, they always leave their Slippers in a certain place – and just try to move them. The magic of circus life is not to discover something new, but to repeat the same thing over and over again. An impersonal, archaic art that goes back not so much to the round Roman “compass” as to the medieval mysteries, to the theater of masks. In the circus, like the middle ages, there is no authorship. Everyone is constantly stealing ideas from each other, clowns do the same reprises, it doesn’t bother anyone. “If your idea is so good that it was stolen, you can only be proud of it,” says Roma.