Nadia Houcke

From Circopedia

Equestrienne

By Dominique Jando


Nadia Houcke
Nadia Houcke (1926-2011) was heir to two of France’s most celebrated and respected circus families: Her father was the legendary equestrian and circus director Jean Houcke (1878-1973), and her mother was born Marcelle Rancy—the granddaughter of the famous circus dynasty’s founder, Théodore Rancy (1818-1892), and daughter of equestrian and circus director, Alphonse Rancy (1861-1933). Nadia Houcke was a true circus aristocrat and, not surprisingly, an equestrienneA female equestrian, or horse trainer, horse presenter, or acrobat on horseback. of great talent.

Born on December 7, 1925, Nadia was the youngest of Jean and Marcelle Houcke’s remarkable children: Huguette (1915-1982), Maurice (1917-2002), Gilbert (1918-1984), and Sacha (1923-1994), who were all prominent equestrians. Both Maurice and Sacha Houcke were long associated with such circuses as Krone, in Germany, and Knie, in Switzerland, and although he was himself an excellent equestrian, Gilbert Houcke eventually turned into a unforgettable tiger trainer, and a major circus star when he became the first "Tarzan" of the big cage in the 1940s, wearing only leopard-skin briefs.

Nadia Houcke made her debut as a high schoolA display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) rider at an early age (she was billed as the "youngest high schoolA display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) rider" of her time) in her father's circus, then based at the Municipal Circus of Amiens, in the North of France. She later embarked in an international career as a high schoolA display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) rider, appearing in some of Europe’s leading circuses, including the Cirque Medrano and the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris, and three seasons with Circus Mullens in Holland. In 1954, she was signed by John Ringling North to be featured in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show, with which she remained until 1956—the last season under canvas of The greatest Show On Earth. There, she worked along two of the greatest high schoolA display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) riders of the time, Roberto de Vasconcellos and Arthur Könyöt.

Upon her return to Europe, Nadia Houcke was hired by Cyril Mills, and performed as a high schoolA display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) rider for the Bertram Mills Circus’s Olympia Season in London (where her father had been Artistic Director, from 1920 to 1923) and then toured with the Mills tenting show, presenting their liberty"Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. and other equestrian acts until 1963—at the end of which season the Mills brothers ceased the activities of their touring show. Her last assignment for Mills was at the Belle Vue Circus in 1963-64, where she presented Mills’s liberty"Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. horses and a novelty act with ponies pulling sulkies.

Nadia Houcke spent her last season as a circus equestrienneA female equestrian, or horse trainer, horse presenter, or acrobat on horseback. the following year, with the celebrated Boswell-Wilkie Circus in South Africa. Back to Europe, she retired and settled in England with her husband, Geoff Morris, a former saxophonist in the Bertram Mills Circus orchestra. Nadia Houcke passed away in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, on September 5, 2011, at age eighty-six.

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