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Circopedia was originally inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight


Alexis Gruss, Jr.jpg

He had been called "Le seigneur des chevaux" ("The Lord of the Horses"): Alexis Gruss (1944-2024) was for many years France’s leading circus personality, a living legend and a true media star, as well as a distinctively innovative circus creator. Charismatic and multi-talented, he was also recognized as one of the greatest horse trainers of his time, both in the circus world and in equestrian circles.

Alexis Jacques André Gruss was born in his parents' living trailer on April 24, 1944, in Bart, a French village near the city of Montbéliard, in the east of France, not far from the Swiss border. He was fourth generation of a circus family of Alsatian and Italian mixed origins. His father was Théophile André Gruss, better known as André or Dédé (1919-2003), a talented bareback rider who became not only a circus director, but also a popular augusteIn a classic European clown team, the comic, red-nosed character, as opposed to the elegant, whiteface Clown.. Alexis’s mother, Hélène Maud (1919-2003), née Lautour, came for the world of traveling menageries.

Alexis Gruss grew up in the Cirque Gruss-Jeannet, the circus co-owned and managed by his uncle, Alexis Gruss, Sr. (1909-1985), André Gruss, and their friend Lucien Jeannet (1902-1977), heir to a dynasty of traveling animal trainers; it was one of France’s premier circuses, variously known as Radio-Circus, Medrano Voyageur, Cirque-Zoo Jean Richard, and Grand Cirque de France. There, Alexis, his brother Patrick (b.1950), and his sisters Bella (1948-2012) and Martine (1956-1994) were trained in all circus disciplines by their father and their uncle Alexis—who was to become France’s leading Equestrian Master.

In 1970, Alexis married Gipsy Bouglione (b. 1947), the daughter of Firmin Bouglione, Sr., a gifted tightwireSee Tight Wire. artist and an outstanding juggler, who was to become one of the most versatile and brilliant circus artists of her generation. In 1969, after a very bad season, Alexis Gruss, Sr. left the Cirque Gruss-Jeannet to join the famous French comedian, actor, and amateur lion trainer Jean Richard, who had just opened his very own circus; two years later, Lucien Jeannet also called it quits.

Left under Alexis and his father’s management, the circus united forces in 1972 with Roger Lanzac, the iconic ringmaster(American, English) The name given today to the old position of Equestrian Director, and by extension, to the presenter of the show. of the French television show La Piste aux Étoiles. Alas, Under the title La Piste d’Or, the new venture didn’t meet with the success they had hoped for, and the show folded before the end of the season. At long last, Alexis convinced André that they should tour under their own name, Gruss—but, after so many different identities, the title Cirque Gruss had no pull. By the summer of 1974, the family enterprise had reached the end of the rope.... (more...)

New Essays and Biographies

New Videos

  • Pneumatic Arts, flying trapezeAerial act in which an acrobat is propelled from a trapeze to a catcher, or to another trapeze. (See also: Short-distance Flying Trapeze) (2024)
  • Victoriia Dziuba, hand-balancer (2023)
  • Bella Ringenbach, tiger act (2002)
  • Alexis Gruss, 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. presentation (2022)
  • Les Folies Gruss, promotional trailer (2023)

New Oral Histories

Circopedia Books

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