No Translation Service Needed: Silent Acts by No. 1 Swiss Mime and Clown Dimitri

“Look at him, I say, this is a real clown. But, what is a real clown? I don’t know, but look at him – he can do practically anything, and yet remains calm and serene when he accomplishes something new and incredible. He’s a delight to behold, like watching a child discovering the pits and traps of the world who manages, as though by some miracle, to avoid falling. I was tense during the whole performance until someone started to laugh, roaring out loud as though alone – not how one laughs at a joke, but a laugh of joy, the laughter of a child. I was the person laughing, and the clown was Dimitri.”  

– Max Frisch, Swiss Novelist 1911-1991

Who is Dimitri?

What an incredibly talented artist! Switzerland’s (and probably one of the world’s) most famous clown Dimitri is based in Verscio, in the canton of Ticino, just a few miles from where I grew up. I remember seeing his acrobatic and funny performances as a young child, with a very mixed audience; Dimitri’s timeless art makes any age laugh. If you think that clowns are sad or even creepy, you will not feel so about Dimitri, who defines himself as endearing and childlike. He just makes people happy.

Dimitri just turned 80, happy birthday! He still has his trademark bellboy haircut and front teeth gap. He still is on stage 150 nights per year making everyone thoroughly enjoy the show. This does not come without work: he practices up to two hours per day, doing hand- and headstands, juggling and more.

Born in Ascona, Ticino in 1935 from a mother who created imaginary fabric figures and a father who was a painter and sculptor, Dimitri decided to become a clown at the age of 7. His education is expansive, ranging from pottery to classes in theater, music, ballet and acrobatics. He studied mime in Paris and performed there until he came back to Switzerland in 1959, where he started his solo acts.

In the seventies, he toured with the prestigious Swiss Circus Knie while founding the Teatro Dimitri in Verscio as well. In 1970, Charlie Chaplin came to watch Dimitri in his Circus Knie performance and complimented him afterwards in a conversation the two had in a circus trailer. To clowns and comedians, Charlie Chaplin is their King!

In 1975, Dimitri founded the Accademia Teatro Dimitri, his performing arts school.

The Performance Gene

After performing solo for many years and procreating very talented offspring, our artist decided to have three generations of talent meet on the same stage. He created the show DimiTRIgenerations that eventually made it to Broadway! In this act, Dimitri, his two daughters, his grandson and a multi-talented, funny Neapolitan female clown each bring their own skills and experience on stage through a variety of channels, ranging from slack wire to an array of musical instruments and genres.

In the Pipeline

One dream Dimitri still wants to fulfill during his lifetime, is to create a silent movie. All is in place for it and the shooting for the silent comedy will begin very soon. I am confident that it will be an outstanding and funny production! It will be open to everybody, no voiceover or subtitling services needed!

If you happen to travel to Switzerland, look up Dimitri’s tour schedule and see if you can make it to one of his performances. No matter where you are from, you will not need translation services to enjoy this either!

You can read his recent interview with Swiss Revue here.