By Dominique Jando
Ella's grandfather, David Ilyich Levitsky (1903-1968) was a Russian architect. He designed circus buildings for the Soviet central circus organization, SoyuzGosTsirk; the circuses of Zaporozhye (Ukraine), Magnitogorsk, Orenburg, and Bishkek (formerly Frunze, in Kyrgyzstan) were not only built by Levitsky: He also was, at various times, their director. Levitsky obviously caught the circus bug, and his family followed in his footsteps: His son, Rudolf (1927-1981), became a juggler, and was then for many years the Ringmaster of Tashkent's circus.
Rudolf's daughter, Ella (Eleanora, born August 22, 1948) became a dog trainer, and made her circus debut in 1962. While performing with the Soviet circus organization, she met her husband, Ratyr Annaev, an equestrian who was chief of a troupe of Cossack riders. Ratyr, and Ella’s sister, Evgenia (b. 1965) soon joined into Ella’s act and became her assistants.
Ella and her very original act (consisting of a heard of trained dachshunds and bassets—breeds rarely featured in a dog act), toured extensively with various units of the Moscow Circus in Europe, Asia and South America. In 1996, she came to the United States, where she was featured in a short-lived Russian circus venture in Orlando, Florida. She remained in the U.S., where she appeared in the Big Apple Circus production of Happy On! in 1998. She retired from the ring soon afterward.
- Video: Ella Levitskaya, Dog Act, in the Big Apple Circus production of Happy On! (1998)