By Dominique Jando
Born May 1, 1926 in a Kurd family, Nazi Aleksandrovna Shiraï was orphaned at a young age and was adopted by the celebrated Russian acrobats, Aleksandr and Maria Shiraï (1898-1984 and 1904-1979, respectively) who found her asleep in front of the circus of Tbilisi, in Georgia. She was originally trained by her adoptive parents, and finished her apprenticeship at the Studio for Variety Arts in Moscow. The very original juggling act that made her a household name in the former USSR was directed by K. Kulieshov and choreographed by E. Grikurova; it premiered in 1954.
Shirai's act was performed in traditional Georgian costume (a nod to her having been found in Tbilisi) and one of its trademarks was its use of Georgian tambourines. An outstanding artist and juggling technician, Nazi Shiraï juggled seven rings, up to eight tambourines, nine balls, and various combinations of balls and tambourines. She performed extensively in the USSR after WWII, and was a member of the Armenian circus collective of Erevan. She was made Artist Emeritus of the Armenian Socialist Republic in 1956.
- Video: Nazi Shiraï, juggling act (excerpts), at the Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, Moscow (1966)