Circus Princess Blog


August blues-the expressive veil

As the mid-August rays of sun still warm my faded porch, I cannot help but contemplate the past summer season. Our production concept Circus festival of Archipelago ran successfully  for the the third year--- we just closed the doors for the season. Shows were sold out, workshops full and audience happy. It was an incredible run with lovely,  talented cast and crew this year. But-- as we closed the season, instead of feeling happy, I seem to have gotten the blues, the August blues, the end blues, the separation blues.

In the circus as in real life, we create connections, we create friends and we create art for the joy of public.  Sometimes years will pass until we work together again with same cast and crew members, sometimes we never meet again.

To me, the strength of any creation comes from the need to express. Sometimes, stage can be the only place, where an artist can truly expose their feelings and emotions. Real life is more complicated and in a way,  more cruel as there is no stage light, no curtain, no make-up to cover ones true core. On the stage we can let loose all those hidden emotions and expressions such as  love, fantasy, pain and suffering. The audience interprets our art in the own way --there are millions of ways to interpret, but the important thing is that they feel with us, peek into our hearts, share with us sensitivity, a moment, tears and laughter.

At the moment, I am thankful of the past summer,  but--- now I must greet  September with reality potion in my cooler. How cruel the real life can be. How sweet the stage. Do you feel like this sometimes too?

Photo by Stefano Bottesi

New Year- Changing Gear?

As New Year has turned, I have changed location to Berlin. Berlin. Zest. Creativity. Hardcore. Whatever one might need or want or ever desire--can be found in Berlin. In two weeks will premiere our Petrushka show, produced by Berlin Komishce Oper and created by 1927-- an extraordinary creative team from London. For me, this rehearsal process has been most fun and pleasant—I could describe it as a sort of creative break focusing on only improving performance aestethics and learning new type of stage acting skills. So, all of you, come see us in Berlin Komische Oper and let Berlin seduce you as it did seduce me. Not a fan of Stravinsky? Do not worry, our splendid skills and live symphony orchestra will melt all antipathy.

At the same, while I am here, we had an enourmous honour to receive international bloggers at our CircusStudio in Kustavi. The visit was organized by VisitTurku. Our circus school students  and our adult circus fitness trainers truly excelled to create a heart-warming performance for the bloggers—some of them even climbed up on the trapeze! Sadly but at the same time happily, I  was able to participat this event long-distance by watching their performance videos  at whatsapp with pride. 

Sometimes—one can let out a  simple sigh and  know that  we have done something right. In this world of greed and competition, recognition might be difficult to obtain.  With true reflection on ones emotions, on a day as today, I feel grateful and esteemed. 

I believe that live art as it best is shared with everyone, experiencing both onstage and offstage are equally important. Have look at our great circus ladies!

ArtTeatro Circus Fitness


ArtTeatro’s Circus Fitness Ladies! Well done! 

Celebration of Courage & Creativity

Slava and I feel  honoured and touched, because we have been recognised by our regional government for pursuing circus and variety related cultural activities in South-Western Finland.

Last December we received the Aurora-Medal issued by Finland`s South-Western Regional Council and just after that we received the Travel Oscar issued by Visit Turku  in January. The awards were given due to our persistant, high-level and  skillful work in the cultural field, but above also because of personality traits:  courage and creativity—and a bit of charm too.

Yet--I must say that we have been  working especially hard during the  last few years to build our ambitions and wild dreams concrete; we have taken some huge risks both financially and mentally. We were really the pioneer entrepreneurs in the new circus field in Finland when we started in 2008—now we finally have our own space with many all-year-round activities. But it has been a long,  a very long  climb up the Jack and Jill’s hill.

Sometimes we have succeeded better and sometimes we have failed, but more important than winning or succeeding has been the process and the learning curve. All of our winnings and troubles  have also brought us one step closer to our goals.  

The growth has been painful, we have lost many a night of sleep due to some hardships. But as the seasonal influenca H1N1-virus stole all my force and strenght two weeks ago, it forced me to vue life from a different perspective— The flu finally passed leaving me ashen white and weak but grateful of today. After the pain, the sweetness of life tastes so much richier. And even after the hardships, the strength flows back, the creativity flows back.

With that said, staying true to your heart and vision with high ethics matter. Sometimes, someone else will recognize your work too. We  do love that!

To strenght and courage! Thank you all of our supporters!

ArtTeatro, Matkailun Oskari. Palkitut 2016

Pauliina and Slava at Travel Oscar Ceremony 8.1.2016 with  Dali-collector and gallerist Ted Wallin

ArtTeatro, Matkailun Oskari. Paperia ilmassa

Photos by Lasse Lähteenmäki



Homecoming 2016


We spend a simple family vacation just at our home in Archipelago of Kustavi, Finland.  I believe the word home has many meanings in circus life: in can mean your home as a building, your home as a country,  but we can be at home on tour as well.

Home is also a state of mind.  When we travel a lot, we try to find home everywhere we stay at. Some places where we perform  feel at home too—even to the state that sometimes artists do not want to leave their work places.  We try to return this  favour, when our artists friends visit our company’s productions too. We try to make them feel at home with our extended family.

For me, the ultimate meaning of home is being with my little family—little Snow-Berry, Leo and Slava. This is my home in it is bearest form. With the three members we feel at home no matter where we are located. Without them, even being at  our physical home is not homely.

Sometimes our  job related contrats takes us apart: everytime  it breaks my heart to leave my little ones to our grandparents care. But the render-vous is more appreciated, sweeter and greater, once we have felt the distance in our hearts and in our bodies. We can feel a true homecoming.

With that said, I wish all my travelling friends and families who stay apart due to work reasons to feel at home atleast in their hearts.

Happy New Year friends at home, abroad and somewhere in the state between!

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Slava and Princess Snow-Berry at Kustavi’s Circus Studio.

Photo by Stefano Bottesi 2015.



After the Circus Festival of Archipelago

How does it feel when our work of four years comes into conclusion? 

I am  alone at our brand new Circus Studio launched one month ago into full action: I am cleaning the kitchen, inventoring downstairs Cafe Trapeze, wiping the wooden floors, packing up the production costumes, make-up and props. I am still mesmerized how beautiful and well received Primadonna and Strongman show was. We got standing ovation eight times out of eight shows…We emploeyd six artists, one technician and two assistants for Cafe Trapeze during summer. We truly did it, we managed to reach the hearts of our audience with our art right here in Kustavi, Finland, next to cows and fields of hay.

In addition to the succesfull production, we had many visiting students from sourranding cities and communities. They came to get their circus training in our daily workshops. For sure, some these great students will perform professionally one day too. I can feel, that they got the spark! Wow!

We also offered workshops for men, pensioners and women with our new invention of circus fitness exercises. Our Aerial Dream Gym trained circus fitness for ladies of all ages including aerial acrobatics and wire walking. That was special too. People loved it!

If to measure success with numbers, in total we had about 1500 spectators and  200 workshop visitors during one month in Kustavi. It is really a lot compared to the size of our community. We outdid our  wildest expectations. 

At the moment, I feel empty, happy and sad at he same time. I am smiling with tears. 

Circus Festival of Archipelago in Kustavi will continue next July again with a new show production and workshops. Please visit us, if you have a chance. 

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Primadonna and Strongman show with Slava Volkov and Pauliina Räsänen, photo by Joni Heinonen, Circus Festival of Archipelago 2015

St. Petersburg, the Imperial City

My son Leo is named after great a Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. We are standing by Catherina Palace´s feeling her presence here still 400 years later. 

My heart bled when I saw the photos of this Palace after the WW2. During medieval times Kings would fight in a duel with each other to save unnecessary blood. Where has the knightlyhood disappeared? 

Just before our Circus Festival of Archipelago kickstarts, we decided to take a short contract to launch a new luxury cruise ship in Germany, Mein Schiff 4. Our family flew to Hamburg to embark in Kiel followed by a cruise of the Baltic Sea. Our trip consisted of three stops: Tallin, St.Petersburg and Helsinki-our final destination.

By the way, I am particularaly proud of the Finnish craftsmanship on Mein Schiff 4. The ship, crafted in Turku, is incredible beautiful: detail of design exceed into curtain patterns, mirrow decoration, artwork as well as engineering planning. How can our 18 square-meter cabin fit in a perfect bathroom, three beds, a couch, desk and closet space for  a family of four? In addition there is  a room service, kid´s club, tasty buffet (where my husband eats like a Tzar), swimming pool and meals available 24 hours. It does make our performing life enjoyable on board.

But---the visit to Russia…

The rest of my family hold two nationalities, but I do not have a Russian passport, therefore I can only visit St.Petersburg via touristic agency. We managed to book a tour for our family to visit the Venice of the North. St Petersburg is a city build with tenderness by emperors and tzars: it is a city praised by Dostojesvki, destroyed by Germans during WW2, harmed by communists and rebuild again by Putin.

Regardless of the poltical differencies and border checks, this city should be embraced and elevated to the status it deserves. We live just next door to it in Finland, yet so few people have actually promenaded on Neva`s shores.

The city boasts with history: Peter, Catherine the Great, Alexander, Nikolai and the last members of the murdered Romanov`s have found they final resting place in St. Peter---but yet, their imperial touch is alive everywhere. Their breath is visible  in golden rooftops and ornaments, in architecture,  in broad prospekts and in the city`s many parks.

In the beginning of the century, St.Petersburg used to be the hot spot to visit during the carnival celebrations; all world`s elite entertainers regardless of their genre would head to perform in St. Petersburg. If they had time, they would practise their performance arts in Turku on their way to the imperial theaters--we were lucky in Finland to view these artists. The World Wars dropped down the  imperial velvet curtains, communistic regime limited its audiences and jailed in the rich culture of Russia.

I can only hope that Mein Schiff will bring us again to the port of St. Petersburg and that we can visit  circuses, theaters and ballets at Neva's prospekt—preferrably in  a  visa-free world.

East and west are out-dated concepts created by our minds— in mos cases it is created by our politicians. The fastest way to change the world is by the power of thought, it is faster than the light.

Howabout a change in mentality today? 


Building a Dream- might turn into a Building Nightmere

In the last two months, Slava, (my lovely husband) has been exercising a new profession as a construction worker-the work is paying off; he is a true master of the hands-- in hand to hand and in hand to hammer!

Our Circus Studio is  finally coming along.  We had a major  set back with our main contractor, a Finnish building company, who measured our windows wrong (they were from 17cm to 25cm smaller than the actual holes and they claimed that the windows were correct for their purpose-no mistake at all…). We had no choice, but to terminate our contract with them and check all the other work they had done-- in general, the quality of the work was unacceptable, for example, they had build a mis-shaped roof-top on top a wrong door as opposed to the blue prints. Wanted or not, we have been in the middle of a major drama, lawyers, stress, lost energy,  lost resources and lost time.  Show-business drama!  What have  I learned from this? That building is  whole other culture.

Having said all that above:  We will be all done by the end of May to open up in June just intime for the summer touristic season. We are planning to create shows, hold workshops and instruct circus fitness-training.

In our space, we will have a full training and show space with 9 meters (35feet) of height for aerial work. Downstairs we have two dressing rooms, bathrooms, artists residency and Cafe Trapeze, which menu we are designing now. The building itself is a beauty: it is made from hand-carved logs by Estonian manufacturer. Soon enought, you can come visit us and enjoy circus activities!

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Here is a photo of the infamous "correctly measured window". I am sure we would freeze in our leotards with all  the extra air leaking in.

Five years of motherhood. It is time to celebrate!

Let`s light up the candles! Tomorrow is the birthday of my daughter Princess Snow-Berry. 

That day, on December 23rd 2009, exactly five years ago, the snow fell heavily on the streets and our one hour-long ride to the hospital was a terrible adventure, the car was slipping on the unploughed highway, Slava was driving and I was squirming on the passenger seat. 

After 26 hours of contractions, throwing up, failed epidural (it went off the nerve and helped only "one side") and a lot of pain the most beautiful miracle of life happened. Princess Snow-Berry was born into the arms of Papa at Turku Hospital in Finland. We spend our first Christmas there, learning about each other and adjusting into this new kind life; I was a nervous first-time mother and she was---a brand new citizen of  the world--pink, cute and hungry for sweet milk.

What other present one could need in life? There is nothing more Santa could ever bring to me.

As of today, I have had five years to grow into motherhood. It is an art-form that I am still learning, but I hope that I can pass  to my daughter  some positiveness, security, honesty, creativity and  above all love, love and love.

Happy Birthday Princess Snow-Berry! 

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Princess Snowberry (4,5 years old here) during our contract in Valencia.

About lions in the show business


“King Tonga, the white lion, reveals its predators sharp teeth. With determination to bring an end to this spectacle, it leaps towards its trainer, Martin Lacey Jr. Will King Tonga eat up the English man? The white lion reaches towards its tamer´s head, ready to bite, showing his pink gums, growling with a low voice. King Tonga stretches its jaw wide and sticks out its long tongue- and then what? -Slurps. The scary predator just licks the face of Martin, jus as a puppy would.”

One of the most debated and ever hot topics in the show business is the participation of  wild animal acts. Even though my personal history and educational path in the performance field is classified as new circus movement  excluding animal acts, I have also performed in famous European circuses and circus festivals. In these prestigious circuses, there must be a tiger or a lion tamer with his gracious cats in the program.

In Finland, our government has banned the wild animal acts which resulted into a severe popularity drop of the traditional circuses. Now our Finnish animal activists try to ban the dolphin show in Tampere Amusement Park. In Central and Southern Europe, the tradition to work with animals is still popular despite the many manifestations of animal activists. 

To work with any animal act is extremely time consuming work.  Martin Lacey Jr, one of the best circus performers of this century, says, he knows everything about lions. I believe him, and I dedicate this blog to Martin. The trainer must know every detail about animals and their condition to be able to work closely with them in the ring. To bring a sick, hungry, angry or otherwise unstable animal into the show could be a fatal error. The trainer is in charge of his life as well as the life of his animals and their well-being, diet and conditions. All his cats are surveyed by him daily and by their veterinarian regularly. 

One lion eats about 5-6 kilos of meat a day. They must have large, hygienic cages to rest and a zoo-yard to exercise as well as some extra space to practice the act. Martin's lions were already born in captivity. It costs the earth to keep and maintain lions. In addition, the trainers must employ help: for one act there could be 5-7 “maintenance boys” working for the animal trainer.

The decision to become an animal trainer is a decision made by the heart; the tamers usually follow the traditions passed on by previous circus generations.

When I worked with Martin Lacey Jr, I was stunned by the the living conditions of his lions, they exceed by far the conditions offered by some European zoos. For me, his lions are the most beautiful, healthy-looking and spectacular lions I have ever seen- full catered and exercised.

The performance is based on the reflects of the lions. Martin does not push them to perform unnatural tricks, nor he wears any safety harnesses or have a security guard with a pistol stand-by. I witnessed how he trained  them with such a paternal patience that would make any dad a hero.  King Tonga with his many concubines and babies are a fantastic sight. As a reminder of the precarious nature of his lions, Martin carries a deep scar on his cheek. With that said, Martin Lacey is an icon, and his lions are a source of inspiration for many artists and spectators, children and adults alike, regardless of their cultural back-ground or gender. Just that, is a life-time achievement. At the gates of the circus, he is greeted by animal activists every day with their own “displays”. It is not for the “payment”, that he puts up with it all that, but for the belief in his own work, his rarely exercised art form.

At least for Lacey’s Lions, the things are looking pretty well. To read more about Martin Lacey Jr: 

www.laceys-lions.com

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Lacey,_Jr

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Martin Lacey with his new born lion family

Valencia calling

Hello! I am back in the castle- well not exactly, but I am surrounded by one foot thick, uninsulated concrete walls and our downstairs entrance has got iron bars to protect us. At the moment, we have moved into our new temporary residence in Cheste - a small, slightly repressed village in the suburbs of Valencia, Spain.

So, “Hola, amigos! 

This city has a lot of medieval styled buildings and streets so narrow that our twin-baby stroller cannot fit onto the sidewalks, with the exception of the new part of the town designed for two-way traffic and  for the modern citizens of the world.

Our little “castle” on Calle Laurel has got three bedrooms, one master bedroom, one for children and one in the other end  of the apartment for “a grandparent”- although that room is just full of luggage now. We have got stone floors and granite kitchen table tops with two large marble sinks - the bigger sink works well as children’s bath tub. Now we should learn install our own gas bottle to heat the water, so we don’t need to shower with cold water or  heat up  bath-time water in casseroles for our children... I would say, we have adjusted rather well to the Spanish sunshine and mañana. We`ve even rented a blue little Nissan, just big enough to fit our cube, aerial hoop, silks, costumes, the twin baby stroller and two kids in the back, so we can freely commute to the shows and back in and around of Valencia.

Coming from the cold north where open air shows are scarce, it is mind-opening to see that here in Spain, a three-month long tour can be performed at an outside stage just on the city plazas. What a great way to spend an evening  with your extended family in the fresh air, watching beautiful dancing, singing and circus entertainment.

What about Prince Leo and Princess Snowberry? They are with us, of course, incredible adjusting to this new life in Spain. During our very late shows (which means the show can start anytime between 23 or 01 hours...), they sit in the twin baby cart in our dressing room  tent, snacking with fresh pineapple pieces and croissants, watching cartoons from our portable multimedia player. Even though, they do take up a lot of our concentration, I am ever so proud of them and their ability to adjust.

It is difficult to get good nannies, especially in new places. How can I trust to leave my children with strangers in a new place? If the company who invites does not support the search of a nanny, we will most likely take the children to work with us. My mind is at ease when I know that they are waiting for us in the dressing room. At least here in Spain, so far all the Spanish people and Spanish companies we have worked with are family friendly. This is not evident in many other countries, i.e Germany. One point to Spain! 

Of course, we try to respect customs of each place we work for, but as a mother, I do prefer to have the liberty and choice to take my children to work if needed. Many of my artists colleagues also have gone through similar faces during their career, children sleeping in the props boxes during the show or they need to set up a time-watch to prepare for the show in order to be able to take care of the kids and work all together. 

Perhaps, it is hard to see how children and work can be combined, but the impossible is possible if one really wants - and needs it too. Besides, our children are such a blessing.

Our “rubio” Prince Leo has charmed everyone here with his ice-blue eyes and wide smile and getting even a kiss from a little Spanish angelica, and  Princess Snowberry goes to an English-Spanish daycare group and has already learned to count in Spanish. Uno, dos, tres, cuatro!

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© Circus Princess 2014