Imagine seeing your mother hanging 70 feets over a hard floor and praying for giving her one more hug after all this is finished. Her face is hard to see from the seats below, so you see her as a stranger. Your mum morphed into a marvelous flying creature that takes everybody’s breath away. When she’s landed again, her jersey is shining as brightly as her teeth and some guys are taking photos with her. She takes her money and notices you looking a bit lost in the crowd. Her kiss reaches your rosy cheeks. You send one back, but she disappears. This is the horror side of the dream, the beautiful colorful dream we all have as children – to join a circus. The time when our bodies are so flexible, we can do stunts and there’s no reason to stay sitting in our boring children’s room. We have more energy than that (and we try to prove it day and night). Actually, we tried gymnastics at home and it worked out so well.
“Why can’t I just show my dexterity and convince my parents to let me live here?” we ask ourselves upon our return home. Another typical childhood dream is to own a pet. No child would decline the opportunity to own a living animal. But what if the pet is an elephant or a tiger?
The circus environment is built upon the excitement, the fantasies, and associations with the past. But what if we don’t have other choice then to stay in this fairy place long after the magic vanishes?
In this series of interviews, I’m exploring the child’s sake as well as parental on circumstances of growing up and raising a kid in different environments, especially in those having a cinematic potential. Let’s have a look into the circus Humberto!
OUGI (main contortionist): My baby is born in Ulaanbaatar, but right after that important moment I had to come back to the circus, the season just started. And when she was 1,5 years old, I could come to Mongolia again to pick my baby up.
ŠM: How is that?! She was waiting for you all that time?
OUGI: Yes, it was the maddest period in my life. All the days long I’ve been missing her. But my mum is a good woman and was taking care of her. She practically grew up in front of the camera. First, the image of her just mumbling and after a few days some first steps… when you listen to this story it feels very hard, but it’s my life and I do not have any other options. It had to happen like that. My husband and I met a long time ago, let’s say as kids. But at some point, we had to rethink our lifestyle, cause he always stays in Mongolia whereas I’ve been traveling around with circus. After my last contract with an Asian cruise line was finished, I had to slow down for a while and really consider my child’s happiness. With all the shows canceled I did finally meet my little baby. This was crucial for us and our future and we stay together at home for another 1,5 years. My family is the most important. I love my daughter and husband and I need, or more like deserve, some certainty in my life now. I consider my family attachment a huge step forward. But as you can see, she’s growing fast and I’m back on stage. We are still together!
ŠM: Would you consider coming back to Mongolia after this contract is done?
OUGI: No, my life is here now. We moved here and we also have a real house in Pardubice, so this place would be our destination for longer. When we want to visit Mongolia, it is possible, the same goes for the other countries where our family members have settled down. No, I don’t feel like moving again.
ŠM: Do you remember some special moments in the circus?
OUGI: My very first show in Mongolia. In there, the circus is a very unusual and fascinating thing, especially for children. They can see things which they have never seen before. It was a big thing for me to perform there so I invited my whole family. Finally, it turned out to be like this: I performed with ropes and my mum was shouting “No, please, don’t, call someone!” during the whole act. I didn’t hear it during the performance, because I had to concentrate, but after the show ended, people told me about it. I was laughing and said to my mum: “Oh, mum please, this is circus life!” as I knew everything about it… I’ll never forget it.
ŠM: Where lies the decision of starting the circus life? As you said you had a normal childhood, normal education, no circus roots, so when this craziness hit you? (haha)
OUGI: That’s right I grew up normally and I’ve never thought about the circus at that time. Everything changed when my big brother introduced me to his wife. She was the first person who mentioned the circus. Her younger sister made a contract as a contortionist and I was amazed. Every time when she came to our house she taught me some new tricks. I was learning at home completely alone. I tried doing some splits or bridges and then again and again. I’ve just followed her pieces of advice, till the day she asked me to follow her in the circus. Finally, I came to Mongolian national circus where they had a professional contortionist teacher. Well, she looked at me with incredulity and asked “Why are you coming now?”. The reason was my age, I’ve been already 17 years old. But at the end and with plenty of luck, she accepted me. From then on, I’ve been crying with 5 years old children every single day during the practice of gymnastics. The teachers have been really strict and all the professional artists so beautifully walking around. I always looked up to them and prayed to become such a good acrobat as they were. But, at the end of one lesson, I broke my leg and couldn’t practice for almost 2 months. After healing I was greeted by even crazier and stricter practice that took 2 weeks and I finally made my stunts. The best feeling after the recovery and tough times was my first show!
ŠM: Now you’re the contortionist teacher as well, the circle has closed. Would you give me some insight into the work with children?
OUGI: Most importantly a good warm-up, then we can continue and do some splits, straddles, arches, bridges, etc. And of course, everyday practice is taken for granted!
ŠM: Do you create new numbers for each season, or you follow the routine?
OUGI: When I intend to work in some a circus for more than one season, it’s needed to create something new for the audience, which would attract them again. Otherwise, nobody would come to see me. This century is very exaggerating. Fortunately, my husband is a good manager and he always shows me the right way, better said “directs me”, but he always brings some good ideas on the table. He can find the right music, the nice costume and after all preparations, it is exactly what I wanted. Let’s say he’s the best partner in crime.
ŠM: How do you feel living in Czechia?
OUGI: I always keep in my mind “Every man to his taste” and it doesn’t matter. “Hello”, “How are you?”, “Please” and “Thank you”, these simple sentences, which I learned as a child always help me to deal with people in a kind and polite way, no matter the country. And I teach my baby the same. Always say “Thank you” or “Sorry” when something bad happens. This knowledge is my first and fundamental one. Of course, at any place on the planet, there are people of different nature and sometimes they’re not nice, but I believe that most people have beautiful souls. The Czech Republic is a nice place, but I like to have a collective made of people from many different places around the world. It can inspire me, so that’s the reason why I work in the circus. But, when we talk about countries, in Pardubice there is a big community of Mongolian people working in my husband’s company, so we organize a Festival of Mongolian culture every year. I love to meet people there and speaking our language. This year my 11 years old peewee will perform with a hula-hoop during the festival, so I’m really looking forward!
ŠM: Could you tell me about Mongolian traditions you keep in your house?
OUGI: My brother is a practicing Buddhist and we’re keeping his faith too. In the house, you can find some lucky charms put on the wall, which give us good energy. Then we have some Mongolian costumes sewed by my mum. And finally, in February we celebrate Tsagaan Sar which literally means White Moon, this is the first day of the year according to our lunisolar calendar. No matter where we are, we always celebrate by cooking a buuz, which is typical Mongolian dumpling filled with meat and we drink Airag.
ŠM: How is your baby doing here?
OUGI: She made some little friends in the kindergarten, but when the quarantine started she said goodbye to them and we stay home together. But it was great, right?
Baby: Yes, mummy!
ŠM: What is your favorite animal and color, huh?
Baby: Elephant!!! Pink and white and red!
ŠM: Do you consider it pleasant to stay at home for such a long time?
OUGI: It was sweet! As everybody did, finally I also had some time to try new things! When people get bored, they’re automatically searching for an adventure. I’ve been making many videos of my kid because she’s growing so fast so those are the real memories and I liked it. That was my kind of adventure – exploring her. That was new for me anyway. My mum is great in making archives, she stores all those important moments in family albums. Now, I finally understood how satisfying it could be for a mother to take care of her child’s memories. How useful it could be!
ŠM: What is your next step after the return?
OUGI: For the moment I’m just happy to be back on the stage. I was missing it so badly, as everybody in here. But when I look further I can see some competition on my way! I would love to participate in one (never tried that)! The best in Monte Carlo.
ŠM: You have never been afraid of doing acrobatic stunts?
OUGI: Yes, at the very beginning but more and more I practice, the safer I feel. Actually, after the quarantine I feel a bit anxious, it’s a fresh start for me. Practicing on the floor is different then climbing the ropes, so the first week was heavy. But, I’m back!