From Russia with Love: ‘A Russian Folk Fair’


I was told once that the purpose of art is to remind us that we are human. (I know too many who have forgotten that fact.) Art comes in many forms: writing, music, dance, painting, fashion, sports, comedy … on and on …

Photographs by Paul Heath. Song: “Alaskan Whaler” by “Bearded Gypsy Band

We inherited two tickets to the Moscow Circus performance at the Cascade Theatre.  My youngest daughter, 7-year-old Iliana, was absolutely delighted at the promise of going to a circus!  I, on the other-hand, felt compelled to go simply by the look on my daughter’s beautiful, beaming face when she heard that magic word: CIRCUS.

Iliana’s excitement didn’t stop after we received our tickets at 4 p.m., Friday, the night of the show.  She wanted to get all dressed up with a little make-up, a pretty bow in her hair and a quick trip to a local fast-food joint (yeeeuck!) before the show. I proudly escorted my daughter to a – surprisingly to me – absolutely packed house!

Thinking back on some the circus experiences of my youth (keeping in mind our recent fast-food stop, that somehow equates to me with some stereotypical, transient circuses), it didn’t make sense to me at all to see so many at a “circus event” … at first.

Then, the show.  Beginning to end, every single offering from the Moscow Circus on our little, local stage was completely artistic and gifted.


From the stunning costumes to the power trio of musicians of the richest and highest craft.  From the many gasps and frequent applause one could tell the art and the love from these talented Russians was palpable.


The incredible Russian gymnasts, contortionists, jugglers, dancers and spell-binders clearly loved every movement or opportunity to genuinely emote for the capacity crowd.  Iliana and I felt like these highly disciplined and captivating performers – artists all – were performing for just us two.


The mind-bending acts were frequently punctuated with a hilarious comedy duo (Vladimir and Irina Plugatar) who never spoke a word, yet left the audience laughing and probably talking for days about their skillful mime and timing.  I almost feel guilty to call them clowns, yet this gifted team also payed tribute to American music by playing a side-splitting rendition of Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s  “Chattanooga Choo Choo” on banjo, harmonica and kazoo!

The exquisite contortionist, Elena Zavyalova, exhibited form, balance and athleticism unlike anything you have ever seen.  Iliana said, “Dad?  How can she touch the back of her head to her butt?!”


As an underscore to the difficulty of some of the acts, an occasional ‘restart’ happened.  As I looked back at the crowd I could see people with enthusiastic expressions and clenched fists seeming to send their energy stage-ward, as if to help the artist.


And speaking of kids … they had a very cool dog act, too!  His name is Kirya, and his trainer, Andre Loshkin, has an impressive background  “…in different genres such as acrobatics, gymnastics, equilibrist arts and juggling …”


It was really fun to hear all the kids in the crowd oooh and ahhh over this dynamic team.

I have to admit that I was pretty darn skeptical to think about the juxtapositional idea of watching a circus … in a theater!

Some on the West Coast know me as a guy with a film, video or photographic camera duct-taped to the side of my head just about everywhere I go.  (It’s a gift and it’s a curse.)  I attempted to gain permission to take some shots and to quickly interview some of the performers or producers for the great viewers of this site.  I was most politely refused that access by the kind and apologetic Cascade staff as well as a representative of the circus.  Perhaps if I were to have considered the full weight of this show I would have been more respectful of contacting the Cascade and the Moscow Circus with a more professional lead-time in mind (Where’s my  good-old-fashioned press pass when I needed it?!)
It’s so difficult to find words to explain to you this amazing achievement of bringing such creative direction, production mastery, talented artists and technical people to realize a CIRCUS in a THEATER.  It just blows my mind to think about that!

Words can’t express the gratitude I feel for Jefferson Public Radio, the Cascade Theatre, their sponsors and to the producer, Sasha Vosk, the director, Lena Vosk, as well as the exceptionally talented artists and technical support of the Moscow Circus.  My daughter and I were left weightless and spell bound. Two hours whisked by as though only minutes.  If you ever have the opportunity to catch this show, don’t wait until the very last minute to inherit a couple tickets.  Run, don’t walk to the box office and invest in a show that will thoroughly please anyone from 5 to 105!

The Moscow Circus world tour is over. In addition to a stop in Redding at the Cascade Theatre, it also appeared February 27 in Chico at the Laxon Auditorium and February 28 in Yountville at the Lincoln Theater.

Moscow Circus web site:

Cool YouTube video:

Slideshow by photographer Paul Heath.

All other photos and YouTube video courtesy of the Moscow Circus.

Alan Ernesto Phillips is a proud son of Shasta County. He is a parenting educator, chemical-dependency counselor, victim-awareness counselor and developmental-asset builder/trainer. He has been a musician for more than 40 years and has played with Jeff Lorber, Albert Collins and Slam Buckra.  Alan is a Clio and Telly award-winning filmmaker who produced and directed political campaigns for congressmen, senators, governors and one president (Ronald Reagan).  His clients also included Coca-Cola, NIKE, CBS News, SINTF, OTS/CHP and NOVA and BBC documentaries. He is a former board member and public affairs officer for the Northern California Hispanic Latino Coalition.

Alan Ernesto Phillips
Alan Ernesto Phillips is a son of Shasta County and proud father of two daughters. He is a Clio and multi-Telly award-winning filmmaker who produced and directed political campaigns for congressmen, senators, governors and one president (Ronald Reagan). His national clients also included Coca-Cola, NIKE, CBS News and NOVA documentaries. He is a former Board Chairman and Public Affairs Officer for the Northern California Hispanic Latino Coalition. Alan currently serves as Director of the 27th District Agricultural Association and as a north state liaison to the Hate Crimes Task Force under the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

8 Responses

  1. Avatar Donna Jean says:

    Thank you Alan for your delightful insight and sharing . You bring forth wonderful childhood memories…and to remind us of what it means to be a parent..taking the time to notice what it means to be in your child's experience.

    Your words dance…you are an artist!

  2. Avatar Linda Gutierrez says:

    Alan, Thanks for the great story! That circus sound a lot better than the scary ones I went to as a child! Wish I could have joined you and Ili. Great writing Alan!

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    What wonderful photos and video. Your passionate article was really fun to read. I had the opportunity to see the Moscow Circus in Moscow in 1986. It was an amazing performance, and I'm so sorry to have missed this show at the Cascade. Thanks for bringing it to life for us!

  4. Avatar Bea says:

    The thing that sticks in my mind is the 7 year old using a little make-up.

    • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

      Wow – I mean Owww – Bea!

      Donna Jean, Linda, Canda and Gary,

      I am clearly not a pro, but thank you for your kind comments! It's the applause that keeps and a person like me wanting to entertain and hopefully accurately share and inform… and get better at what I do: Kind of like building assets in our children!

      Bea (if that's your real name), if your comment is the only thing that stuck in your mind from me sharing a sparkling part of my life with you… well… I guess… I had better find a day job and quit participating as a volunteer writer. Ever! 😉

      By the way, to try and help satisfy your apparent 'mindset,' Bea, my daughter was so excited to go out to the circus with her dad, that she said she wanted to wear a really pretty dress and wear some make up. (I reluctantly settled for a little lip gloss.) And to sooth your concern, the fast food thoroughly absorbed the lip gloss before I ever took my 7 year old out in front of God, Children and Family Services, et al. She is also a voracious reader, yet I will spare her your comment. But thanks for reading!

      That evening was a memorable moment to be marked, for both of us… one of those rare moments of clarity, color and lovingly being held by good fortune and dancing with the opportunity. From serendipitously getting free tickets to getting my beautiful sleeping daughter safely from our old car to her bed after we got home…. it was all about love…

      A precious memory that I will fondly remember throughout my life and with my dying breath…

  5. Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

    Paul Heath! By the way… GREAT job (as always) on getting those behind the scenes shots at the Moscow Circus show!! From your pics the artists seem to be consummate pros. Working right up to show time. I am dying to know what they were like back stage… Any thoughts??



  6. Avatar kathy kilen says:

    I miss Redding…haven't gotten to know my new city quite as well. Nicely written! kk

  7. Avatar Eddie McAllister says:

    Hi Alan

    Thanks for the trip to the Moscow Circus, it was the next best thing to b n there.