By Helen Musa
WHAT is it that gives the circus its continuing hold on us? Is it the display of brilliant virtuosic skills? Is it the sequins, feathers and outlandish colours? Is it the humour of the clowns?
After a visit to the Greater Moscow Circus in Wagga Wagga recently, I’d venture to say that it’s none of these.
No, what makes the circus endure is the sheer risk.
To be sure, this new 20-act Michael Edgley spectacular, soon to hit Canberra’s Majura Park, features two very funny clowns, one of them the artistic director Yuriy Abrosimov. As well, there are the charming miniature ponies led by an 11-year-old horse master, the vivid depictions of old and new Russia, and artist Albert Roubaud, who seems to hold his own head in his hand.
But to my mind, the most exciting moments are the most terrifying ones, such as the aerial silk-and-tissue act by gymnast Oxana Zinchenko, or the “Group of Risk” on the Russian bar and wall trampoline, or the Globe of Death, where motorbikes whiz around at speeds in excess of 80 km/h. For at any moment, you feel with certainty, that any one of them could come crashing.
And sometimes they do. Take the clown, Mario Espana. The very reason he’s a clown is that at age 19 he suffered a serious accident on the Russian Swing.
Or daredevil Brazilian knife-thrower Alfredo Silva, who tells “CityNews”: “I’m 2000 per cent more scared than the person on the knife-throwing board.”
Could he miss and hit his assistant? Yes, he could and has done once, injuring her in the leg. His present partner trusts him completely, but he now takes no chances, preparing for each knife-throwing episode with rigorous rehearsing and never drinking before a show.
His knives are real – we checked them. The 30mm pine board is tough. The speed is incredible. But though he knows fear, underneath he is confident. “I shoot to miss – I always hit my target,” he can now say.
Like all members of the Moscow Circus, Silva is multi-skilled. You’ll see him selling drinks before the show, you’ll see him throwing the knives and you’ll see him as the group leader in the terrifying Globe of Death.
Silva, who speaks five languages, represents the sixth generation of a circus family, but can’t afford to be complacent. Isolated from his family, who mostly live in Las Vegas, his is a life of constant control. Yet, he tells us, it’s normal to him and he never longs for a 9-to-5 existence. “I never missed what I didn’t have,” he says.