February 06, 2005

Where the Stars Come Out to Purr

Posted by Ed

I have a lot of things I hope to do before I leave Russia in October, most of them related to my dissertation work. As things stand now, for example, I'm planning a six-week trip to Saratov, the traditional home of the Volga Germans, to do research in the province's former party archive. Most of my time in Moscow is spent working in a handful of archives and in the State Historical Library.

I'd be remiss if I spent all my time in Russia working, however, and I have a new mission. Before I leave Russia, I will go to the world's only cat circus. Here's an excerpt from a 1999 Christian Science Monitor article on the circus:

Uncle Yura is famous among Russian children as the man with 120 of the most amazing cats ever. They jump through hoops, walk tightropes, dance to music, balance balls on their noses, and easily find their way through complicated mazes. The world's only cat theater, is located in a small and ordinary-looking building in downtown Moscow. Started 25 years ago by former circus clown Yuri Kuklachev, it has grown into one of the most popular weekend outings for Moscow kids.

At the start of each performance, children gather around the theater entrance while Uncle Yura (Mr. Kuklachev) passes out balloons. Then they head into the 400-seat amphitheater where the "actors" - dozens of cats of all sizes and colors - are already warming up for the show.

"I like cats very much," said five-year-old Nikita, after watching "Cats From Outer Space." It's a play - starring cats, of course - about alien felines who come to Earth to save people from evil. "I liked the white cat best," Nikita said. That would be the show's hero, an alley cat named Manya.

Manya defeats the bad guys - played by people - by beaming rays of goodness at them from a big mirrored ball. The show is nonstop action, with cats jumping, rolling, and cavorting across the stage. The plot may be hard to follow, but the kids in the audience don't seem to mind.

I'll write a report on the circus once I've been there. What I'd really love, however, is to visit the school where Uncle Yura trains his cats. I'm sure that would be a site to see!

Posted by Ed at February 6, 2005 05:04 AM

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