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Death of Alexis Gruss: the alliance of equestrian art and the track

In The Dictionary of My Life, published last year by Kero, to Proust's questionnaire question, “How would you like to die,” he answered “in good health.

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Death of Alexis Gruss: the alliance of equestrian art and the track

In The Dictionary of My Life, published last year by Kero, to Proust's questionnaire question, “How would you like to die,” he answered “in good health.” In fact, he was still on the track in March under the big white marquee of the Folies-Gruss, installed as always in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, to celebrate the jubilee of his company. Alexis Grüss was going to celebrate his 80th birthday on April 23. He died on Saturday April 6 at the Parisian Saint-Joseph hospital of a cardiac arrest. His death was announced by his family: “Alexis Gruss was much more than a man of talent; he was a pillar, a master of the equestrian arts, of spectacle, whose imprint will remain forever engraved in our hearts. He dedicated his life to perpetuating the equestrian arts of the track through his teachings and transmission, inspiring entire generations.”

We can measure the pain and sadness of a family united around the patriarch who superbly embodied this circus dynasty which has held equestrian know-how for six generations. Alexis Grüss was born on April 23, 1944 in his grandmother's caravan in Bart in Doubs. She was of Italian origin, a acrobat whose circus landed one day in Saint-Marie-aux-Mines where she met her future husband, André-Charles Gruss. “Love at first sight” tells the legend. “I am the product of an Alsatian stonemason and an Italian horsewoman. Sauerkraut and order on one side, spaghetti and fantasy on the other,” he said with humor in Le Figaro, in 2018.

Also read: Alexis Gruss, the king of the equestrian circus, is dead

Reality imposes itself in the form of five children, including André, father of Alexis. The many years that followed still speak of happy marriages, numerous children, seeds of acrobats and aerial riders, of competitors who joined forces (Alexis married Gipsy, a Bouglione), of a certain idea of ​​the circus . Alexis Gruss defended this idea with conviction. Especially since 1974, the date of his meeting with Silvia Monfort who opened the doors of the Carré Thorigny in the Marais to her marquee and the Hôtel Salé which was not yet the Picasso museum with the horses, the elephant and the pig! Together, they created a circus school, already with a taste for transmission. “For me, transmission is the most important thing in an art such as track racing. The transmission of the gesture. We cannot learn otherwise than by repeating the gesture that an elder transmits to us. It is the hand that preserves the memory, the hand controlled by the brain and when the master knows how to transmit, the student surpasses him,” he said again in Le Figaro. He was in fact inexhaustible on this need to “transmit”, associated in this family with the cult of work. It is thanks to them that he, the distinguished squire, and his wife Gispsy, an excellent wire worker, managed to anchor their company at a time when so many others had disappeared.

Every year under the big top, the public measures what it means to be at Alexis Gruss' school, admiring his children, Maud, Stefan, and Firmin, and his grandchildren, including Charles, Alexandre, performing numbers equestrian acrobatics or high school. The granddaughters, a little younger, “the next generation” already on the track, are already damn talented. “What we must first pass on to our children is the taste for learning. Make them want it? For this the example is fundamental. Then the family is built on a few values: respect first and foremost with this formula: everyone at home and everyone together. »

The other family of a man raised in a troop. He said he lived with his parents until their death in 2003. A family, a cavalry, a circus, a term that he nevertheless rejected after having raised the name of "old-fashioned circus", the one he had chosen with his accomplice Silvia Monfort in 1974. Then that of "national circus", when he managed, in 1982, to convince Minister Jack Lang to link circuses to Culture and no longer to Agriculture. “Circus: this is the word that I cannot avoid and which I nevertheless refuse to use today. Some people did anything. » he wrote in his dictionary. But it is on the track that this man with great character, and who had a high sense of humor, will have lived his entire life.

His father saw him as a clown, he became a squire, developing a limitless passion for horses. His cavalry today numbers fifty horses, the imposing Boulonnais, the nervous thoroughbreds, the proud Akhal Téké-Turkmen, the robust Scottish Shire and the little Argentine Falabellas who are hard at work on the track. For numbers, some of which this family is one of the last to know how to perform like “La Poste”. “A horse that arrives at my house is transformed after six months of education. He becomes more beautiful. They also like to learn,” he said. While emphasizing that his children trained their horses themselves: “They watched, observed and took advice... We live with them, we love them.”

He, the music-loving saxophonist, who had very early removed the figure of Mr. Loyal from his shows, saw himself more as a conductor. We will keep the image of him as an old squire still on the track who, in the show which just ended on March 31, disappeared backstage after making a little jump in the style of Charlie Chaplin. An artist of a certain elegance too. His funeral will be celebrated at Saint-Roch church next Thursday.

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