I’ve been helping a friend find out more about his circus ancestor this week. Manoel Antonio Dutocq we knew was an acrobat and a slack wire walker from Brazil. He married a woman from Cardiff and they had their children in London.
Finding his stage name was the key to the research. He performed as Don Jose Manoel and was known as the ‘Celebrated Brazilian Equilibrist’. The Victorian newspapers are full of reports of where he performed with Hengler’s Grand Circus. It seems they toured the UK and Paris in the 1860s and into the 1870s.
The Liverpool Mercury describes his act:
‘The skill displayed by Don Jose Manoel “the Brazilian Equilibrist”, is both surprising and gratifying. Two of his feats – the whole of which are performed whilst he stands upon a slack wire suspended between two poles – are especially worthy of notice. First, he places a glass of porter on a hoop and twirls it around his head and in all sorts of positions without spilling a drop of the liquid. Next he balances a sword upon the edge of a drinking glass, the latter resting upon a pipe inserted in his mouth. At the top of the revolving sword whirls a large-sized bowl filled with fireworks, which explode after the vessel has made two or three resolutions, enveloping the artiste in a shower of fire.’
Liverpool Mercury, 26 December 1864
He died in 1881, aged just 45, at the London Chest Hospital, probably of tuberculosis. Despite performing until he was in his mid-thirties, there are no reports of his death in the newspapers.