Not your typical circus

Not your typical circus

Forget your notion of a circus. Erase memories of three rings with elephants and tigers, swinging trapeze artists, tightrope walkers and especially jugglers.

Enter the world of Cirque du Soleil, the circus of the 21st century, a magical combination of the world’s most talented artisans, original musical score, elaborate, custom-made costumes, enriching story line and exotic performances that defy the laws of nature.

A signature Cirque du Soleil production, Dralion, on tour now for 11 years, is stopping in Beaumont at Ford Arena, with performances daily at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23-26, and two afternoon shows: a 3:30 p.m. performance on the Nov. 26 and 3 p.m. on Nov. 27.

The show’s — and the world’s — premier juggler, 27-year-old Vladik Miagkostupov, came to Southeast Texas for advance promotion of the show.After a short sneak peek performance of splits, backbends, yoga poses, spins, leaps and flips while juggling three to five balls, Miagkostupov took a few minutes to talk about his art and life as a circus performer.

Where are you from and how long have you been a circus performer?

I’m from the Ukraine and was born into the circus. Both of my parents were in the Moscow circus. I began traveling with them when I was 8 months old. I have a daughter who has been traveling with the circus since she was 3 months old. I would like her to also be in the circus if she wants to do it and has an interest in something artistic.

Why juggling?

My father was a juggler. I always watched every performance. Other kids would watch for a minute and then run around but I would watch the entire circus. I was 6 years old when I started juggling, but even before then I had learned acrobatics and dance because my parents were both more artistic performers who combined acrobatics with their acts. Even that young, I would practice juggling, starting with tennis balls, for four or five hours a day.

But you don’t just stand in front of an audience and keep balls in the air; you’re the “Michael Jordan” of jugglers. Describe your style of juggling.

(Laughs) The juggling act, which is seven minutes, is a little bit more than just juggling; it’s combined with dance and acrobatics and a little more modern. I am the “Earth” character in the show representing the birth of earth and fire. I come out kind of more mean in the beginning and lighten up. I communicate that which represents elements – earth and fire. Fire is aggressive and then through movements close to the ground and more organic, I represent the human elements coming to life and taking on human form or earth. I’m kind of like a creature born out of the earth.

How did you become affiliated with Cirque instead of the Moscow circus, like your parents? Are they still performing?

My father is still performing; my mother is retired. Cirque basically recruits the highest level artist – acrobats, dancers and musicians – from all over the world. They saw me at the Cirque de Demain’s competition in Paris in 2003 and asked me to send a video. I started working for Cirque in Solstrom (another Cirque du Soleil production) and then with Dralion in 2006.

The Circus Festival in Paris in 2003 – Cirque de Demain – is where you won the world juggling competition?

Yes, there were 35 acts competing and I won the gold medal.

Does the best juggler in the world ever get nervous performing?

Nervous? Yes, when it’s a big premiere and there is a lot of pressure or we’re performing for a TV show. I get nervous if important people, or if my father is in the audience, or it’s a full house with press. When it’s an everyday show and we’re one week in a city, I don’t get nervous.

What do you love most about the circus?

Traveling is one of my favorite parts of it. I love going to different countries, not just U.S. and Canada but Australia, Japan, Mexico, all over the place. I’ve been to 30 countries. The audiences are great, too. The fans are crazy about us. One woman in Australia saw the show 150 times. She followed us for two months and always sat in the front row. Everyone knew her.

Does Cirque appeal to people everywhere?

It’s not your typical circus. It’s very unique and most audiences have never seen anything like it, but we do have to adjust for difference cultures. We were in Japan for year and a half and at first they were unresponsive to our clowns. Their comedy is different, so the clowns had to change their act some.

What is your favorite act?

Oh, there are so many good acts. I love the hand balancing and the trampolines and the hoop act. All are really good. It’s not an ordinary circus. The audience should be prepared for some surprises; it’s quite different. The whole production is so amazing; from the lighting to the costumes, it’s top quality and more high caliber than anything you’ve ever seen anywhere. It would be sad to miss something like this when it’s coming to your own backyard. Cirque is one of the only companies that is this high caliber.

Next week’s feature will preview the Dralion performance, giving descriptions of the show, acts, costumes and music. Dralion tickets are available by calling (800) 745-3000. Adult tickets start at $35; children 12 and under start at $28; student, seniors and military start at $31.50. Group discounts are available by calling (409) 951-5413.