This article originally appeared on VICE France.
At the Ritz family circus, the kids – whose names sound distinct American – run the show. Cousins Rocky, Chayan, Tennessee, Kellen and Dany are between three and 14 years old. They were born in the circus and have no plans of quitting the nomadic lifestyle they grew up in.
The spectacle travels up and down the suburbs of Paris in the winter and to the south of France in the summer. This is no Cirque du Soleil, their grandfather, Armand, constantly reminds everyone. For him, the circus is first and foremost about "clowns and animals". In front of 30-odd people, sometimes less, almost every day, the Ritz kids perform balancing acts, horse dressage and clown performances.
But before putting up the tent, they need to find the right spot. And that's not always easy. The family complain that they spend more time trying to secure a place to house their circus than they do actually practising and performing the show. That's because municipalities are becoming more and more resistant to hosting these small circuses, with pressure coming from animal rights groups, who often protest at the shows.
For the kids, it's hard to understand why people would oppose their lifestyle, as it's all they've ever known. Still, eight-year-old Dany is starting to realise that circus life isn't always a party, and is already thinking about what he might do instead. At the moment, he's leaning towards either becoming a bullfighter or a builder.
If everything goes to plan, the kids will stay in the business, inheriting the secrets that have been passed down within their family for generations. Photographer Sophie Rodriguez spent a day with the Ritz family in the town of Savigny-sur-Orge, 30km south of Paris, to better understand some of these secrets and to discover what it's like to be a modern circus kid.
Scroll down to see more of Sophie Rodriguez's photos of the Ritz family circus, for which she recently won the Paris Match Prix Spécial.