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Leonid Yengibarov

Today in the clown studies Zoom, we dove into the history of Russian clowns. We discussed the appearances, performances and impact of clowns like Durov, Vitaly Lazarenko, Karandash, Popov and more.


The teacher covered performers from the 1880s to the 1960s. The most modern performer we learned about was Leonid Yengibarov. From wikipedia:


He was one of the first Soviet clowns to create the poetic, intellectual clownery, which made spectators think, not only laugh. Leonid Yengibarov, 'the clown with sad eyes', revolutionized the art of clownery by introducing lyrical tones into traditional buffoonery and grotesque sequences. According to the Spectacle journal,

he has shown the direction. He was the innovator. He began to do clown gags that were not funny, but very sad. They ended sadly. He felt that life was not funny anymore.

After initial incomprehension, his popularity grew immensely. After that he was invited to work in cinema. His first film, A Path to the Arena, was in fact about himself.



We watched a couple clips from A Path to the Arena. It's a charming and corny self-starring biopic about a clown struggling to gain the acceptance of his family, the beautiful acrobat in his circus, and the audience. Our teacher skipped straight to the big turning point where, dejected and lonesome after another failed performance, Yengibarov sits alone in the empty arena and meets, Christmas Carol style, the ghosts of his greatest inspirations: Durov (the father of Russian clowning), Marcel Marceau and Charlie Chaplin.


I wish I wrote down this whole exchange. It was very funny. Also, this was a clip that the teacher has specially translated for him from a Russian speaking student. I looked up the same clip on YouTube and there are no English captions.


From what I can remember: Durov comes to Yengibarov to tell him how he became the king of clowns. Yengibarov failing because he's not listening to and observing his audience. He needs to focus less on his acrobatics and more on the connection he's making.


Durov fades away. Marcel Marceau fades in. He doesn't speak, ha ha. He really just does a mime routine as Yengibarov looks on.


Marceau fades. In comes Charlie Chaplin. He asks Yengibarov, what is your message?


Corniness aside, watching this struck a chord. I felt the parallel of "listen, observe, message," and "learn history, develop philosophy, find a way forward."

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