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June 23, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 25
 
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EXPLORING NEW YORK CITY - Wow! Meow! Moscow Cats Theatre!
EXPLORING NEW YORK CITY - Wow! Meow! Moscow Cats Theatre!
by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

Yes, cats can be trained to do tricks! One of the most unusual and remarkable things I've seen lately is the Moscow Cats Theatre, which is currently playing at the Lamb's Theatre, 130 West 44th Street, in New York City. Comprised of eight traditional Russian clowns and a furry crew of over twenty cats and two dogs, this surreal show will have you awe-struck as to what cats can do on command.

Just the "paw-stand" alone is worth the price of admission. A very lovely fluffy cat named "Marusa" does a handstand on his front paws on the palm of clown Yuri Kuklachev's hand and stays as still as a statue and totally concentrated with the rest of his body going straight up in the air, motionless and never losing balance. It's truly amazing! The trick is repeated later on in case you didn't believe your eyes the first time.

Cats race across the stage climbing poles and running through mazes and walking on hind legs, pushing buggies with dogs and other cats in them (with a little help from some invisible string pulling the weight of the buggies along). The "Queen of the Cats" rides a bicycle around the stage with a "cat tree" of about ten tiny platforms on the back of the bike, each one with a cat nonchalantly perched, sitting (or sleeping) peacefully. Cats fly through the air, jumping from great heights into the arms of clowns. A small black cat hugs a horizontal pole with all four legs up-side-down and shimmies across the length of the pole. Cats walk tightropes and balance balls on their noses. Interspersed with cat tricks, the clowns toss giant balloons around the audience and perform Russian style clowning, some in funny elephant masks.

Yuri Kuklachev, the founder of the cat theatre, is a very famous and beloved clown around Russia and Europe and has performed in over eighty countries. (The Russian acrobats, recently in Seattle for Cirque du Soleil's beautiful production, "Varekai", commented on how much they enjoyed his clowning and about his celebrity in Russia). He has received numerous awards including the "Silver Clown Award" in Monte Carlo, the "People's Artist" in Russia, the "Golden Clown Crown" in Canada, a San Marino postage stamp and is an honorary member of the American Clown Association.

Kuklachev started his cat theatre over thirty years ago when he found an abandoned kitten in a park and started to train it. Now, some shows that he or his son, Dimitri present, can have anywhere from twenty to fifty to seventy to one hundred and twenty trained cats. Dimitri also trains cats for commercials and is currently shooting a "How to&" special about training and handling cats for a major Russian TV channel.

When asked to explain how he teaches the cats to do tricks, Yuri Kuklachev has said; "It's not me who trains cats; it's cats who train me and I just watch them. But the main thing is to love the animal and when your fluffy friend has felt it, it will reciprocate. My method of training cats is very simple. It's non-violent. Anyone who watches my performances grasps it perfectly well. Because the cat on the stage approaches me on its own will, pets with me and otherwise displays it feels good. Everything starts with a game when I intently watch the animal, encourage and nail down specific features using caress and affection. The animal itself suggests things it likes. I'm just tailoring the plot lines to suit its frolic." I noticed that right before a trick a clown would wave their hand in front of the cat's face slowly and almost hypnotically and I asked the "Queen of the Cats" afterwards what that was all about. She replied that they each have a chicken breast in their pocket and rub it and let the cat smell it on their hand before a trick is performed by the cat. Should any of us be surprised that chicken would be a great motivator for a cat?

About how the cats are cared for Kuklachev said; "We glorify them and that's why we provide the cats with a traveling entourage including a vet, kitty caretakers and personal stylists to tend to the needs of our feline superstars."

I highly recommend The Moscow Cats Theatre for a unique, memorable and fun experience for both adults and children, especially for all you cat lovers out there. I definitely think it's worth taking the time for on your next trip to New York City.

For more information visit: www.moscowcatstheatre.com. For tickets call Telecharge at (212)-239-6200 or visit: www.telecharge.com.

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