Friday, November 25, 2011

Gilbert Houcke--Circus Krone 1952

Not a very "masculine" looking loin cloth. Great act, but for the life of me I can't see how some folks with the initials Dominique Jando can interpret elegance in his movements. Swish I can see. Elegance I saw in Charly Baumann.


I have seen Charly Baumann, and I have seen Gilbert Houcke many times, too. Charly Baumann was indeed a great cat trainer, but as an artist, he was not in Houcke's league. This is what made the difference. Houcke had an amazing charisma, the sort Gunther had, but with more elegance. He was very quiet, always smiling, very sure in each of his moves. Nothing brisk, ever. His act was choreographed like a ballet. In its final version, Houvke didn't have other props than large stools in the cage -- like low profile elephant stools -- on which the tigers could move and lie. In some way, the act looked like a first-rate liberty act, but with tigers. It was gorgeous, and nonetheless spectacular. It just showcased the sheer beauty of the animals.

But there was something else with Gilbert Houcke, too: I always noticed that when he entered the cage, before his tigers, the audience was mesmerized; you couldn't ignore his presence, his extraordinary charm. I remember him, too, when he was in his Tarzan costume. I was perhaps 10 years old when I saw him for the first time; my mother whispered, when Houcke entered the cage, "What a built, this man!" (in French...) I guess that for every woman in the house it was, "Tigers? Which tigers?"...

I am a big cat fan, and I have seen all the great cat acts I could get a glimpse of, here, in Europe, in Russia, and even in Asia. Baumann was Houcke's replacement with the group of tigers he originally brought here. He surfed on Houcke's wave for a time, but never reached his predecessor's fame or impact on the audiences. Keep in mind that in Europe, audiences actually watched the acts (in a one-ring circus, it's difficult to do otherwise) and were pretty savvy. In Paris, where you had until 1963, two permanent circuses that changed their program every month, the audience saw a great quantity of acts, and was able to judge the difference between one and the other. Houcke was a star, who actually could draw an audience. There was a reason to this. Other cat trainers may have done the same tricks as Houcke. Few did it with such remarkable artistry.

Dominique Jando

(Photo from Mike Naughton)



Anonymous said...

You're pretty much obsessed with Jando and his preference for Houcke aren't you? How many snide Jando references have you made since that post? As far as masculinity goes, I don't think there's a person in the world who would consider Gunther's costumes 'masculine' No definition of masculinity would ever include rhinestones or pink tights, so get over that one.
Houcke had a unique style that many people liked, that's as far as it goes. Period. Get over it.

Wade G. Burck said...


A lot, why? Buckles asked "what does Jando do", and we are still trying to find out.
Pull your panties out of your crack, your "persuasion" is starting to show.


Anonymous said...

Circopedia,the free encyclopedia of the international circus.
A project of the Big Apple Circus,
inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Dominique Jando
Editor/Curator ( for the interested)

Just for the FYI . . .

Bruce the Clown