By Dominique Jando
Svetlana Victorovna Shamsheeva was born March 23, 1958 in Lipetsk, an industrial city south of Moscow. She was not at first destined to work in the circus: She trained in ballet as a young girl and, after finishing 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), she began studying economics. But what defined her subsequent career was her attending a youth program at the local zoo, working closely with Himalayan bears and other animals.
Eventually, Svetlana began to put together an act with the bears that she presented at the zoo, later culminating with an original combination of bears and doves working together. She was soon noticed by the director of the Stage Circus of Rostov-on-Don, who signed Svetlana for his company, with which she worked from 1979 to 1985 with her bear and dove act.
In 1982, she won the All-Union Circus Competition of the USSR; this of course caught the attention of SoyuzGosTsirk, the State circus organization, for which she started working in 1985. At their request, she put together a dove act, to which she added trained cats in 1986. The new act, displaying house cats and doves working together in perfect harmony, was a sensation, and Svetlana Shamsheeva became a star of the Soviet circus.
In 1993, Svetlana appeared at Liana Orfei’s Golden Circus Festival in Rome, Italy, where she won a Gold Medal; two years later, she went to the United States, where she was featured in the new production of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. She stayed with The Greatest Show On Earth for two seasons, and then decided to remain in the United States.
She subsequently appeared with Cole Bros. Circus, where she added a dog act to her repertoire. She was featured with her two acts in the Big Apple Circus production of Picturesque in 2004-2005. She returned to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 2006, where she starred in the 136th edition of The Greatest Show On Earth.
- Video: Svetlana Shamsheeva, Cats and Birds in the Big Apple Circus production of Picturesque (2004)
- Video: Svetlana Shamsheeva, Dog Act in the Big Apple Circus production of Picturesque