Rosa Bouglione, who lives today in Paris, was born in 1910 in the Belgian Ixelles as Rosalie van Been. Her parents had a small circus and toured through the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. At the Circus van Been, she worked as dancer and animal tamer. In 1928, she married Joseph Bouglione (1904-1987), who belonged to one of the most important circus families in France. Originally named Bogliono, this Sinti family came from Piedmont and travelled in the late nineteenth century between Italy and France. In 1924, the brothers Alexandre, Joseph, Firmin, and Sampion founded the Circus Bouglione, which became one of the most popular and successful circus companies in France. One of the reasons for this success was Rosa Bouglione with her spectacular wild animal acts. In 1934, the Brothers Bouglione purchased the famous Cirque d’hiver (Winter Circus) building in Paris, which had been erected in 1852. According to Rosa Bouglione, the circus company was allowed to travel even under Nazi occupation. However, the family had to share the Cirque d’hiver with the Berlin Circus Busch. Nevertheless, the Bougliones dared to outwit the German propaganda orders by placing political allusions in performances like “Robin Hood”, “Carmencita”, and even “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. For this reason, Rosa’s husband Joseph Bouglione several times was in danger to be arrested. Towards the end of the German occupation in Paris, the Résistance used the Cirque d’hiver as an arms cache. In post-war France, the circus successfully continued its work. After her husband’s death, Rosa Bouglione became the director of the Cirque d’hiver. Today, she is admired as the Grande Dame of the French circus world.
Author: Ilsen About
Bouglione, Firmin: Le cirque est mon royaume. Paris 1968; Bouglione, Rosa: Un mariage dans la cage aux lions. La grande saga du cirque Bouglione. Paris 2011; Gruss- Bouglione, Gipsy: Sur le fil de ma vie. Pont-Saint-Esprit 2005; Aiolfi, Marjorie; Bouglione, Louis Sampion: Le Cirque d’hiver. Paris 2002.