Glitz and glamour, acrobatics and fun – that’s what makes the ring so magical. Away from the big show, there is life on wheels. Behind the large, round circus tent are the artists’ caravans, always ready to drive to the next station.
Alexander Schneller (pictured above), 35 years old today, was the youngest circus director in Austria when he took over the circus from his mother Elisabeth three years ago. He is brimming with enthusiasm about this life from city to city: “Everyone has their own caravan, but we still live very much together, because the circus arena is often not that big and the caravans are then wall to wall.”
Lower Austrian circus dynasty
The only purely Austrian circus still roaming the country is Circus Pikard. He tours exclusively through Lower Austria – with his young director Alexander Schneller. This in turn is a descendant of the founding dynasty.
One listens to loud music, the other plays the violin for hours, seven dogs and four children are also there. “It can get louder from time to time. It’s not always 100 percent peace, joy and pancakes with us either, but the respect is there, the team spirit is there and if it gets too loud: there’s always a quiet corner,” Schneller says optimistically.
Everyone helps with everything
It gives the impression of a big family. Everyone helps to keep the business running. The clown, for example, also sells souvenirs, and acrobats offer popcorn. A very special life, says Alexander Schneller: “St. Pölten is our state capital and we simply drive to a large meadow here and say we live here for a month. That sounds crazy, but for us it is completely normal.”
No other life could be imagined faster: “I love it, it’s my life. And I am happy that there are people around me who want to live this life with me. What we achieve here together is in truth priceless.” You still won’t get rich with it, he smiles, but that’s not the point either.
The History of the Schneller Dynasty
Alexander Schneller, who has been in the ring since he was three, took over the circus from his mother Elisabeth in 2019. She managed the company for decades together with her husband Ernö and was also an artist. She withdrew three years ago, Ernö Schneller died unexpectedly in 2004 during a guest performance in Krems.
The Schneller dynasty originally came from Hungary. Ernö’s father, who himself came from a circus family with decades of tradition, founded the circus together with his wife, who came from the French circus family Picard, and so the new circus was called “Picard”, the spelling later changed to “Pikard”. Ernö and Elisabeth Schneller established their seat in Pulkau (Hollabrunn district) and set up their winter quarters in Hof am Leithaberge (Bruck an der Leitha district).
Two to three hours of training a day
The team currently consists of 16 artists, some permanent staff, some international artists who change from commitment to commitment, but are generally versatile. Because a number alone is usually not enough. The best example is the director himself: Alexander Schneller is not only a circus director, moderator and director, he is also a class juggler, artist and dancer.
And he wants to stay that way for a long time to come: “I have seven nieces and nephews from my three sisters, who have all settled down, but none of the children are currently interested in this scene. But that can still be. In any case, I will continue to do this as long as I can and luckily there are many idealists who do this together with me.
Whether you are a contortionist or a power acrobat, it takes two to three hours of daily training to achieve feats like these and maintain them at this level. When the show is over, things are dismantled and the entourage moves on to the next station in Lower Austria. Because the only Lower Austrian circus only stops in Lower Austria’s cities.