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Famous Aerialists - Circus Performers

“The Flying Codonas”

A Story of Love and Tragedy

Many of the coaches at Fly Circus & Aerial Arts have tried their hand at Flying trapeze. Though it is not a requirement to partake in flying trapeze, it is a bonus to have experience with different apparatuses or different (circus) art forms. Not to mention, it is an art that is exhilarating and fun; flying through the air. In circus history, there are many well-known performers. More importantly, a famous trio known for their exceptional talent of flying trapeze, were the Flying Codonas.

The Codonas; Alfredo, Lalo and Victoria, came from a long decent of circus performers. Because of this, the Codonas trio had trained with their parents at an early age in a wide range of circus specialties. However, it was flying trapeze that Alfredo and Lalo had a natural ability for. Victoria usually performed a slack wire act in the same program. When Victoria quit, Alfredo and Lalo returned with Steve Ouch, an experienced flyer from Australia. It was around this time that Alfredo wanted to replicate a triple somersault as seen by Ernest Clarke of The Clarkonians. Alfredo and Lalo were able to accomplish this in a matter of months and soon became the most sought-after flying act.

With the new act, Alfredo had added a “feminine element” by bringing it Clara Groves, whom he met through the Siegrist-Silbon Troupe. Alfredo and Clara fell in love and had been married for quite some time. When Clara got injured during rehearsals, her aerial career ended and the marriage dwindled. Alfredo would later fall in love with and marry Lillian Leitzel, “Queen of the Roman Rings”, whom he had been sharing the spotlight with while working for the Ringling Show. It was Lillian that introduced Vera Bruce to Alfredo’s Flying Trapeze act to become the third in their trio. Vera was also one whose parents were circus performers and while she was not an aerialist by trade, Vera was a quick study.

Unfortunately, injuries and tragedy hit Alfredo’s circus career. During a separate program from the Codonas, Lilian’s swivel broke from her climbing rope causing her to fall fifty feet. Lilian had passed away two days later at the age of thirty-nine. A year later, Alfredo also took a fall, though into the net from a missed catch, and tore a shoulder muscle. He fell again the following year, but this time dislocated his shoulder. It was the end of Alfredo’s flying days, but not his circus career as he was given a job as Performance Director to train a new flyer for the triple. Alfredo had done this for two years before becoming Equestrian Director which was short lived. In July of 1937, after being married to Vera Bruce for five years, they met to finalize details of their divorce. It was then that Alfredo shot Vera and then turned the gun on himself.

Alfredo was considered royalty in the circus world being coined “King of The Air” as his funeral drew a large crowd of colleagues and fans.

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Written by: Alicia Schroder

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