Sign up for blog updates

Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

CATEGORIES

POPULAR POSTS

THE BOOK

 

Buy the book at amazon.com

Know a good place for us to check out? Tell us!

 

 

Expats Blog

Entertainment

A Lifetime Spent Under the Big Top

Published on April 03rd, 2014 in Entertainment

  • Humberto Cirkus, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • Karel Pavlata the glittery clown, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • The Kolarska siblings perfecting the pyramid, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • The Šimšova family perform, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • Elephant checking out the posters, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • Female performers with their daily chores, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • The Jungova family practices the bridge of rings, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • Humberto Cirkus, c.1953 (photo by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

  • A bear performs in the Great Moscow Circus (photo courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk)

I have long been a fan of Czech circuses—their acrobats, animals, clowns, and campy atmosphere are bound to charm young and old alike. My personal favorite is the one-ring Cirkus Berousek where I once watched a bear ride an actual motorcycle! Imagine my delight when I recently had the chance to chat with Mr. Ladislav Knos, a 50-year veteran of Czech circuses and the current technical advisor to the Chinese National Circus. Mr. Knos's personal credo? “Circus is Forever.” I tend to agree.

 

 

KF: Did you grow up in the circus or run away to join it?

LK:  I was born in Brno, where I lived until I was 10. Then we moved to Prague, where I live today. I'm from a non-circus family. I didn't join until I was 24, after seeing a job advertisement for a driver. I met my wife on tour in Bulgaria in '66. Circus was a destiny that we remained faithful to our whole lives.

 

 

 Left: Mr. Ladislav Knos (photo coutesy of www.idnes.cz)  |  Right: Ladislav with a couple of friends, c. 1965 (photo coutesy of www.blesk.cz)

 

 

 

KF: You've had an interesting career trajectory. You started as a driver and then...?
LK: Throughout my almost 50-year-long tenure with the circus I have been a driver, garage attendant, worked in advertising/promotions, administration, and as director of the both Humberto and Praga circuses. Currently I am manager and technical advisor for the Chinese National Circus.

 

KF: How did you come by your job with the legendary Cirkus Humberto?
LK: I began working there as a director in 1979, after having 13 years of experience with vaudeville acts and what was then known as the Czechoslovak Cirkus which toured the countries of the East bloc.

 

 

 

Left: Czechoslovak Cirkus Band, c.1953  |  Right: Juggler Stanko Kočka, c.1953 (photos by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem") 

 

KF: Tell us a little about the history of Czech circuses. Does it somehow relate to Russian circus?
LK: Czech circuses began to emerge at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries when wandering people from various disciplines—jugglers, magicians, bear handlers, and actors—developed into an independent subculture which became part of our national heritage.

 

KF: Was the communist government supportive of circuses?
LK: Yes. Unfortunately, these days, circuses don't have the government support that they did when they were funded, from about 1952-1991, by the department of culture. That's why many of them can't achieve those previous levels of fame and glory.

 

KF: You traveled extensively with the circus. Where are the best audiences?
LK: To rate which is the best audience can be very difficult. Circus as folk art and family entertainment is received pretty well (not to mention boisterously!) worldwide.

 

 

Left: Setting up the tent, c.1953  |  Right: Everyone helps - artists, musicians and technicians, c.1953 (photos by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

 

KF: How long does it take to set up and take down the entire circus?
LK: That depends on the conditions, size, and number of workers available. Cirkus Humberto  had about 3,000 seats. After the final show, at about 10pm, we would tear down and move to next city where we would spend the morning building again before the afternoon performance. The whole cycle took about 17 hours.

 

KF: Do you believe the great Czech one-ring circus is a dying breed or will it survive?
LK: The question should not be whether Czech circuses will survive but whether circuses at all are going to last. My response is this: Circus is immortal.

 

KF: What do you think is the best current Czech circus and why?
LK: The original National Cirkus Berousek . Which manages to combine a nearly century-old family tradition with amazing inventiveness and industriousness and wow the audience with astonishing animal and artistic performances. Besides that they offer a beautiful ambience that is comparable to theater.

 

 

Left: Husband and wife team training, c.1953  | Right: Dočka Richterová and her pupil, c.1953 (photos by Miroslav Pešan, from "Za Cirkusem")

 

KF: What is your favorite circus act?
LK: My favorite circus act is the flying acrobats on the trapeze as these are among the most regal and skilled of all the circus disciplines.

 

KF: Why is it that circus is so magical to so many?
LK: It is a living art and lets parents and adults become the children again. Circus is the last island of romance in our technological world.

 

 

Most circuses begin pitching their tents around Prague in late summer with performances running through autumn. You can see a list of them, and further info about “circus season” here.

 

 

close