In The Spotlight
Recipient of the 2022 Circopedia Award
In his early youth, Gia Eradze fell in love with the circus and decided he would become an animal trainer. From then on, nothing stopped him. Not only did he become a successful animal trainer, but his rich, extravagant visual imagination led him to create extremely successful shows that helped revive the creative image of the Russian circus at home and abroad, and eventually propelled him to new heights in the Russian circus artistic hierarchy.
Gia Giulevich Eradze was born October 3, 1979 in Tbilisi, Georgia—which was then part of the Soviet Union. His father managed a supermarket, and his mother was Rector of Economics at the Tbilisi State University. His was a well-to-do family with no connection whatsoever with the performing arts in general, and the circus in particular.
Yet, then as now, Tbilisi was a circus town: In 1888, the Nikitin brothers had built a wooden circus on Golovinsky Prospect (today Rustaveli Prospect), and what was then Tiflis became their home base. From there, they created a touring circuit for which they used circus buildings they erected over the years in several other cities, including Moscow.
The original Circus Nikitin’s structure was destroyed by a fire in 1911, and Tbilisi’s new circus was housed for a long time in a former factory before being rebuilt in 1939 in its present location, on a hill on the left bank of the Kura river. It is there that a young Gia Eradze fell in love with the circus—and especially with animal acts. There and then, he decided he would be an animal trainer.
He enrolled in the local Amateur Circus (Youth Circus) and began training in various circus disciplines, but he quickly discovered that Amateur Circuses (and circus schools for that matter) did not teach animal training. Working with animals is something you learn hands on, working with other animal trainers in a circus.
Gia was a precocious and strong-willed kid, and his determination eventually led him to truancy: when his father’s car took him to school in the morning, Gia waited until the chauffeur had left and changed trajectory, landing inevitably at the circus. In 1990, at age eleven, he managed to get a job as an assistant (or as a groom) with Nana Milkatze’s Horsemen of Georgia troupe of Cossack riders.
For a while, Gia’s mother wondered why, when her son came back from school, a whiff of hay and horses followed him in the house. When the cause was finally discovered, Gia held his ground firmly and made it clear that he had decided to work in the circus and that he wouldn’t budge. As a compromise, his parents accepted his decision, on the condition that he continued his schooling while working at the circus... (more...)
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- Founder and Curator