Fatal “Ball of courage”: why a unique circus act became tragic for the Mayatsky family of artists
The number ” 12 “became fatal for the Mayatsky circus performers: on January 12, 1963, the author of the unique attraction” Ball of courage”, motorcycle racer Peter Mayatsky fell from his motorcycle during the performance and was seriously injured. Exactly 12 years later, in the same city, on January 12, his wife and daughter also almost died while performing the same tricks. Since then, the “Ball of courage” has not been used in the Soviet circus, although its analogues exist in the world today.
This number was invented and patented by Pyotr Mayatsky in 1950. Its essence was as follows: in a mesh ball with a diameter of 7 meters, suspended under the dome of the circus at the level of 15 meters, motorcyclists went at high speed horizontally and vertically, performing “eights” and dead loops. The balloon consisted of two hemispheres, and the climax of the number was the moment when the lower hemisphere separated and descended, while the motorcyclist continued to move along the very edge of the upper hemisphere.
The attraction was extremely popular with the public. “Ball of courage” in 1952 received the first prize at the 1st all-Union review of circus acts created by Soviet youth. Pyotr Mayatsky performed with his wife Nadezhda and son Vyacheslav. With this number, the Mayatsky family forever entered the history of not only the Soviet, but also the world circus-later this attraction was used in many countries of the world.
On November 12, 1963, the artists performed in Krasnoyarsk. Pyotr Mayatsky’s motorcycle suddenly caught the footboard on a grid cell, and the artist fell to the bottom of the ball, and the motorcycle fell on top of him. Mayatsky survived, although he was severely maimed: his arms, legs and ribs were broken. But still, a year later, he returned to the “Ball”again. And since 1966, together with her parents, Marina Mayatskaya began performing in this number.
In 1968, Pyotr Mayatsky died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 63. His work was continued by his wife and daughter – to bring the attraction back to life, they had to rehearse for 8 hours daily. In 1975, they were unexpectedly summoned by telegram to tour in Krasnoyarsk. The artists flatly refused – there is such a sign among circus performers: you can not return to the scene of a tragedy, otherwise a new one will happen. Nadezhda asked to send them to any other city, but the management insisted on going to Krasnoyarsk. It came to the Ministry of culture. “Do you believe in omens? Pack your things and go on tour!”- peremptorily ordered the artists.
And then the mystery began: on the same day, January 12, 12 years after the previous tragedy, in the same city, during the same three-hour performance, the irreparable happened again: the lower hemisphere, along with the artists, collapsed on the arena. As it turned out, the old winch failed. Fortunately, at that time, the Mayatskys managed to finish the performance-otherwise they would have flown out to the audience on motorcycles, and then it would not have been possible to avoid numerous victims. The performers were already bowing to the thunderous applause, when suddenly the floor disappeared from under their feet.
Nadezhda and Marina were seriously injured, but they survived. Marina went on crutches for two years, both artists could no longer perform at height with the number “Ball of courage”due to the third group of disabilities. In 1977, Marina Mayatskaya created the attraction “Trained cheetahs and dogs”, and since 1994, she also performed in the image of an eccentric clown.
No one in Russia could repeat the “Ball of courage”. Motorcycle racers still perform in the circus today, but the balloon is installed in the arena, not suspended under the dome. The complication is carried out in another way: in the center of the ball are people, and motorcyclists ride around them. The Guinness Book of records records a record of Prague circus performers who for 3 minutes drove around 15 volunteers standing in the center of the ball.