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Yuri Kuklachev (Clown)

Yuri Dmitrievich Kuklachev was born in Moscow in 1949. I had been dreaming to become a clown since my early childhood. For that I had to enter the Circus School, but all my attempts failed. For seven years at a run they kept explaining to me that I had no qualities to become a clown. But I had a very strong desire and I decided to prove to everybody that I would become an artist.
In 1963 I entered Vocational School No. 3 to study printing and began studying in the evenings at the amateur circus attached to the Red October House of Culture, where my pedagogues and tutors were M.M.Zinger and I.S.Fridman. I rehearsed a lot and two years later I became a laureate of the All-Union Amateur Arts Festival. The laureates’ performance was held on the Moscow Circus arena in 1967. I was noticed and invited to study at the Circus School. Two months before the start of the school year a glass can breaks behind my back and I get my foot badly injured. I used to come to the School on crutches.
I studied at the clownery department for four years. And during all these years the course principal tried to get rid of me. He believed that a cripple could not be a clown. Then I decided to prove to him that he was mistaken. I did a comedy juggling act, where I used a hat, rings and balls. Then came the balancing acts on five bobbins, which I replaced with household articles: with buckets and a fire-extinguisher. In 1971 I graduate after all. With the profession of the parodist acrobat clown.
The very same year I married the charming blonde Elena Isaakovna Kuklacheva. She was a dancer at a tout ensemble, moved wonderfully. At the circus we went on working at the image together. Elena turned out to be an extremely talented artist. She created a successful image of a uniformed stage boy. We made a boy’s wig, sewed the uniform and none of the spectators could recognize that it was a girl. When towards the end of performance the trick was exposed, spectators were totally delighted. At the end of 1971 we find a kitten in the street, which enables me to become a CLOWN WITH A CAT.
Sure, I was under the influence of my wife’s mild nature. And I believe that that was what helped me to find common language with cats and create an inimitable image.
At the circus we create an acrobatic act with a pole which gives spectators a good hearty laugh for twenty minutes
All that time I kept strenuously looking for something that would make me different from all clowns in the world. I was in need of an image of my hero. I was searching for an exclusive feature not only in my behaviour or costume, but in the work itself, its underlying principle.
The fortune helped me that time again. It made me encounter a small kitten in the street, which had been thrown out and could die any time. I felt pity for it and took it home. I washed his sore eyes with tea right in the wash-basin and fed it well. The kitten stayed to live with me.
Wherever we are, we are asked one and the same question: “How do I train cats?” For hundred years no one trained cats in circuses. Perhaps, because everybody tried to tame – which means to subordinate the animal to one’s will. A cat never obeyed to anyone and will never obey. Because it always lives the way it likes.
But the whole secret is as follows. It’s not me who trains cats; it’s cats who train me and I just watch them. But the main thing is to love the animal and when your fluffy friend has felt it, it will reciprocate.
My method of training cats is very simple. It’s non-violent. Anyone who watches my performances grasps it perfectly well. Because the cat on the stage approaches me on its own will, pets with me and otherwise displays it feels good. Everything starts with a game when I intently watch the animal, encourage and nail down specific features using caress and affection. The animal itself suggests things it likes. I’m just tailoring the plot lines to suit its frolics.
My act “Cat and Cook” made a stunning impression. Invitations from all over the world started pouring in.
My cats’ family increased by a few cats more and a dog Pashtet (Pate). I wrote about it in my books – “My Friends – Cats”, “One Hundred and Twenty Cats of Yuri Kuklachev”. And, no doubt, one can refer to a book series under title of “School of Kindness” as a solid work of both artistic and scientific value.
In 1976 we came on tour to Moscow for the first time. A unique, resembling no one image of Clown Kuklachev had already been created. My teacher came backstage to me and apologized for having been so indifferent and uninterested towards me during my years at school.
“I was mistaken”, he said.
I embraced him and thanked him for the hardships he used to create for me. “You had awakened such forces in me that helped me overcome everything: envy, libel, betrayal. You made me choose not a well-trodden path where I would have most likely got lost in drab uniformity. You made my spirit harden so much that every cell in my body started boiling and raging with such force that even at nights when one had to sleep quietly I would go on working and searching in my sleep.” Even now I am so grateful to those people who did not praise me, and trying to cause pain, maliciously, pedantically pointed out my lapses. It helped me because I corrected them immediately.
And I have arrived at the following idea. When everything in life goes quietly, steadily and smoothly, it’s very detrimental for an artist.
That is why, even now, I keep constantly searching, setting goals and tasks and try to realize them to the best of my knowledge.
I started to work hard in 1964 and until now never feel tired, perhaps, because I like very much the job I’m doing. I practice the Buteiko breathing system and the Norbekov health-improving system. It helps me to avoid taking medicines and feel always young.
The first stage of my creative history – entering the circus school - 1967.
The second – active self-cultivation and graduation from the circus school as a parodist acrobat clown - 1971.
1973 - the first tour in Rumania, where I had a huge success with a cat.
1974 - I am invited to Cuba. The whole South America learns that there is a clown with cats. 1975 – I am invited to work in the country’s main arena – the Moscow Circus. In 1976 we go on tour to Canada. In Ottawa, after the show Prime Minister Trudeau invites me with my wife for a dinner at home. At that time it caused a sensation. The Cold War was on and the KGB feared that we would stay abroad. Meantime, our success was tremendous. Canadians did not just clap their hands but stamped their feet, and, even whistled loudly. In Canada I won the Clown’s Golden Crown Award and the diploma saying: “For humane treatment of animals and for its advocacy”. I am conferred the title of “Ambassador of Good Will”.
It had a long lasting impact on my work. I begin to design my repertoire along here. Kindness is getting to be the through keynote theme in all my sideshows and acts.
Triumphant worldwide tours begin.
France – success is so amazing that my name is introduced to the French Language textbook for reading, Form 4 - The Kind Book.
1976 - Canada; 1977 - USA; 1980 - USA, Puerto-Rico; 1982 – West Berlin on the “People Beasts” Programme - sensation; 1982 – Argentina; 1983- Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela; 1984 - France; 1985 – Japan.
In Japan I win the GOLDEN OSCAR – the prize of spectators’ sympathies.
In 1980 I become the Laureate of Lenin Komsomol Award and I am conferred the title of the Merited Artist.
In Moscow I perform in the play ”The City of World” (author – V.I.Schwartz, director – A.Kalmykov). Already one year later I stage a new piece “Circus in My Luggage” (author and director – Yungvald-Khilkevich). For staging this play I receive the title of the People’s Artist of Russia.
In 1986 I win the SILVER CLOWN prize at the Monte-Carlo International Circus Artists’ Contest.
1987 – Monte-Carlo, 1989 - France, 1990 – Israel, the Netherlands. 1991 – Belgium, Great Britain. 1992- Italy, Israel.1993- Belgium.
In 1989 I develop the idea of creating my own CATS THEATRE.
In 1990 Moscow Mayor’s office gives us as a gift premises of the “Prizyv” cinema theatre at 25, Kutuzovsky Prospect for spectacle staging.
February 23, 1990 is considered by us to be the date of birth of the private theatre for children with its own house in Moscow.
In 1994 I am awarded the Order of Friendship for foundation of the theatre and in 1999 the theatre receives an Order of CIS “The Nation’s Hope”, instituted by the International Academy of Ecological Sciences.
The theatre is invited on a tour to Paris where it gets the title of THE WORLD’S MOST ORIGINAL THEATRE.
The theatre is triumphantly touring in Finland, Japan, America, Canada, Germany, China, Israel, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, etc.
In 1990 the theatre’s Chief Director was A.S. Shag-Novozhilov. Since 1996 the famous film director G.E. Yungvald-Khilkevich worked as the Chief Director.

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