Paris – Académie Fratellini

Annie Fratellini

The Fratellini Family is a well known circus family in France. After the immense popularity of the Trio Fratellini Clowns. The Clown trio consisted of Paul (1877–1940), François Fratellini (1879–1951) and Albert Fratellini (1886–1961). On of their descendants was Annie Violette Fratellini (1932–1997), fourth generation granddaughter of Paul and daughter of Victor Fratellini and Suzanne Rousseau. Her Grandfather from mothers side was Gaston Rousseau who was the director of the Cirque de Paris. This was a huge circus building located at the Avenue de la Motte-Picquet from 1903 to 1930.

At the age of 13 Annie made her debut in the circus ring, but eventually she ran away from the circus five years later to become a singer and musician in the Franch music hall circuit. She was noticed and cast as a movie actress. In 1954 she married movie director Pierre Granier-Deferre (1927–2007) and got a daughter: Valérie.

In 1969 she was starring in the movie “Le grand amour” directed by Pierre Étaix (1928–2016). They fell in love and married that same year.

Étaix his love for circus and clowns caused them to create a clown duo. Étaix being the white faced clown and Annie the Auguste (the comical character).


Académie Fratellini
1-9 rue des Cheminots
93210 La Plaine Saint-Denis

National Circus School

It was in 1975 that Annie Fratellini and Pierre Étaix opened the École Nationale du Cirque, one of Paris’s (and Europe’s) first two professional circus schools. The same year they also created the Nouveau Cirque de Paris, an intimate, high-end traveling circus that was the performing arm of the school. Naturally they both made many appearances too.

After their divorce in 1987 Annie continued to run the circus school and the circus. Her daughter Valérie took the role of white faced clown.The circus school worked from a big top at the La Vilette district in Paris.

After Annie Fratellini’s death on the first of July 1997 her brother Paul asked Laurent Gachet to help him to continue and restructure the school. Together they laid the foundations of the academy’s project in 1999. After Paul’s death some internal disagreements about the future and the use of the site in Saint-Denis caused Gachet to resign.

Académie Fratellini

After the resignation of Gachet, the project continued and the new circus school premises where inaugurated in 2003. The star shaped circus building called L’Altaïr was designed by architects Patrick Bouchain and Loïc Julienne. The 8 pointed star shaped building was constructed of wood and re-used building materials and can seat 1600 people.

Four points of the star shape stick out of the building, these are part of the building seating arrangements. Every point can also be covered from sight by red fabric to reduce seating capacity and make the building feel more intimate. The height of the building is 25 meters.

Besides the building the Acadamie Fratellini has several big tops and halls on their premises. They do not only provide a circus education, but also offer rehearsal spaces and just like a theater they offer several productions throughout the year for Parisian audiences to come and see.