National circus of Ukraine starts the new program "From heart to heart". On the eve of the official opening ForUm correspondents visited the main circus arena and its backstage to learn about the life of circus animals and artists.

The arena looks sad without visitors: old benches, poor lighting, freezing cold... However, workers of the circus say the arena is in the process of preparation and the things will be different soon.

For the next four months, until May 19, Ukrainians will enjoy performances of mainly Ukrainians artists. There are only three acts with participation of foreign circus performers.

Ludmyla Shevchenko, art director of the National circus of Ukraine, notes that the new program is multigenre. "This time we have record holding artists, who will surprise the audience with their acts. Among four-legged artists, there are bears, horses, ponies, monkeys, poodles.  Walrus Sultan is the sensation of the season.

Fans of tigers and lions will be disappointed, as felines do not perform in this program. According to Ludmyla, the situation with animals is complicated to various reasons. "The most difficult is to preserve old traditions of horse acts," she tells.

Having talked to the art director, we went to the backstage. The smells told us immediately where to look for "involuntary artists". This is a kid of a shared apartment for circus horses.

Alan, 11-year-old black horse is getting ready for the performance...

The next "dressing room" belongs to ponies. This little horse is already full-dressed. According to the show, it is a pony dreaming about being a zebra.

This white pony is heaving a snack waiting for its turn to perform.

A caretaker of the circus animals told us that horses are fed with hay, oats, carrots and cabbage. Sometimes he prepares special porridge. 

This is the star of the show - walrus Sultan weighting seven hundred kilograms. It was born in Chukotka and already performed in a number of Ukrainian circuses. It came to Kyiv from Yalta theatre of sea animals.

In its cage, there is a bathtub, where Sultan can take a bath. Caretakers change water every 3-4 days. It is important for air temperature to be cool, but without drafts, as walruses are subjected to colds.  According to Ludmyla, keeping a walrus is a great trial for circus workers. For its short stay in the circus, Sultan has already used tons of water.

Sultan's tamer Serhiy Svyshchenko demonstrated one of the tricks included in the program. The walrus easily inflates a balloon.

Maintenance of such exotic animal costs pretty money. Serhiy did not say concrete numbers, but specified that Sultan eats 20-25 kilograms of fish every day, for example 10 kilos of capelins, 10 kilos of squids and 5 kilos of salads. 

This cage is occupied by bears Yana and Katya. They ride bicycles and push-bicycles.

The bears are of different age (16 and 14 years old), thus perform separately. "It will be a busy season for them," tamer Valery Stepanenko says. Yana and Katya were taken from a zoo. "They are young and can perform in circus for another ten years," he adds. According to Valery, bears have an excellent memory. Even if they do not perform for some period, they remember the tricks and program anyway. In response to the question, whether bears have to perform even if they are sick he said, "Bears do not get sick."

Suddenly we hear a loud noise and bear roar from behind. "Asking for a treat," the tamer says.
The bears kept beating the cages until Valery gave then some pieces of sugar.

This is a temporary home for poodles. Journalists were no allowed in the room. The attempt to enter  was met with unbelievable barking.

These are the living conditions of the circus dove...

Having checked upon animals ForUm correspondent went to visit dressing room of artists. A clown Serhiy Kalganov is getting ready for the performance.

He shared with us some secrets of clown make-up. "First you must to highlight key parts of your faces, like cheeks, nose. They you have to draw the character you will perform. My colleague Andriy must look older, thus he draws mustache. I need to bring out the eyes."

"In fact, making people laugh is a hard job. There is no manual how to do this. One just must love the circus, his profession and the audience," Serhiy Calganov says and adds he never places an "agent" among the audience. "For my act I need a man, so I observe how the men react to the performance and somehow I feel that this or that guest will play with me," the clown explains the nuances of his job.

Having talked to the artists, we decided to walk around. At the exit to the arena, there is a space for scenery.

Before going out artists use this place for the last preparations.

Meanwhile, guests are gathering in the audience hall. At the entrance to the arena, there is a mini-shop, selling fluorescent swords, sticks, ears and other knickknacks, costing from 25 to 60 hryvnias.

The show begins. Acrobats open the program.

Then there is the turn of comic juggler.

Already familiar clowns...

Unfortunate performance of the horse Alan. Together with the rider Alan falls at the entrance, but gets up and manages to perform a couple of tricks.

Then there is the turn of silver and bronze prizewinner Anastasia Makeyeva. She is performing a new aerial gymnastics act.

The audience is sitting in unbreathing astonishment watching wirewalkers and equilibrists. 

And finally the four-legged artists...

Well, this is the culmination of all the efforts artists apply to entertain the audience. We hope both people and animals enjoy their job.


Ticket price for "From heart to heart" performance ranges between 60 and 200 hryvnias. Children under 5 years old have free entrance, but without separate seat.

Tetyana Matsur, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk


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