In The Spotlight
Born Andrée Auclère on February 20, 1926 in Paris, France, the daughter of a baker, Maryse Begary (1926-2007) was one of the most accomplished and celebrated aerialists of her day, famous for her exceptional handstand on the trapeze bar—which she could hold for more than one minute—and her spectacular series of rotating one-arm planches (also known as "dislocations"), with which she emulated her idol, Lillian Leitzel (1892-1921).
Young Andrée started training on the trapeze on her doctor’s recommendation, to improve a poor health condition. She became apprentice to a celebrated gymnast on horizontal bars, Nicolas Marcoud, who had a successful career with the Marcoud-Banola Troupe. Andrée adopted his name (as was the tradition then, in the circus, when a young performer had apprenticed to a famous master) when she started her performing career. Thus, under the name of Andrée Marcoud, she made her professional debut at Paris’s Cirque Medrano on April 14, 1939; she was thirteen years old.
Andrée Marcoud quickly made a name for herself: Her handstand on her trapeze bar didn’t fail to impress circus professionals and aficionados, and her act continued to improve over the years. After the German occupation of France during World War II, Andrée was featured in 1946 (and again in 1950) at Paris’s (and the world's) oldest permanent circus, the Cirque d’Hiver. The following year, she went on tour with the French Cirque Figuier under her real name, Andrée Auclère: Raymonde Marcoud, Nicolas Marcoud’s niece, was also performing at that time, and Andrée didn’t want to create any confusion.
That same year, 1947, Andrée married Franz Begary, a former pilot in the French Air Force who had just left the military. Andrée Marcoud-Auclère finally became Andrée Begary, and changed her first name for the more romantic Maryse. It is under that name, Maryse Begary, that she continued her career—thus confusing a few circus chroniclers and historians: Andrée Marcoud and Maryse Begary are sometimes mentioned as "the two only aerialists" who, after the creator of the trickAny specific exercise in a circus act., Miss Fillis (Nicolas Marcoud's daughter), were able to hold a handstand on their trapeze bar! Franz Begary became Maryse’s assistant and manager, a marital partnership that would last until Maryse’s death.
The amazing Maryse Begary was much in demand in France and Europe. In the winter 1949-1950, she was featured at Bertram Mill’s Circus at London’s Olympia, where she shared the bill with another legendary aerialistAny acrobat working above the ring on an aerial equipment such as trapeze, Roman Rings, Spanish web, etc., Alma Piaïa. The next winter, she appeared at Circus Carré in Amsterdam, then under the management of the Strassburger family; she was twice featured at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall in Scotland, and performed at Blackpool’s Tower Circus in England, Cirkus Schumann in Copenhagen, and Circo Americano-Castilla in Spain, among many other prestigious European venues.... (more...)
New Essays and Biographies
- Little Billy Merchant, Clown
- Jacko Fossett, Clown
- Circus Ring of Fame, History
- Natalya Jigalova, Aerialist
- Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe, History
- Louis Knie, elephants and tigers act (1976)
- Bruno Togni, tiger act (2023)
- RenéCasselly, Jr., acrobat on horseback (2023)
- Anatoliy Ruban Troupe, teeterboardA seesaw made of wood, or fiberglass poles tied together, which is used to propel acrobats in the air. (2022)
- The Ayala Troupe, high wireA tight, heavy metallic cable placed high above the ground, on which wire walkers do crossings and various acrobatic exercises. Not to be confused with a tight wire. (2022)
New Oral Histories
- For A Moment You Fly, The First Season of The Big Apple Circus (1977)
- Vladimir Durov Documentary on Russian Television (c.2000)
- Dolly Jacobs Interview at The Ringling (2018)
- Pinito del Oro's Interview on Spanish Television (1970)
- Gia Eradze's Interview on SSU TV (2015)
- Philip Astley & The Horsemen who invented the Circus, by Dominique Jando (2018)
A Message from the Founder
CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.
- Dominique Jando
- Founder and Curator