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“I spin 40 hoops at a time.” History of Ulyana, artist of the Cirque du Soleil

“I spin 40 hoops at a time.” History of Ulyana, artist of the Cirque du Soleil

9 minutes read
This text is about: 25-year-old roller skater and hula hoop artist Ulyana Havrona from Lviv tells how she got a job at the famous circus show, and shares the experience of work behind the scenes there.
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When I was 10, the coach of the circus studio at the Lviv State Circus came to our school in search of new students. I soon came there as a student. I really liked it, especially the “hoop game”.

Already at 17 I went to the arena of the Lviv Circus with my own solo number. 20 hoops were used in the performance: they had to be held on the waist, arms, chest, knees… They all rotated differently and I had to feel each one.

A few years later, I tried myself in the room “Equilibrium on the perch” (the perch is a pylon 3 to 5 meters long). In addition to me, four guys took part in the performance. One of them was holding this pylon on his shoulders, on which I stood, and sometimes other acrobats. Of course, it was scary at the height, but I liked it.

Me, Andriy and roller skates

One day, my circus partner invited me to perform in a new genre. So we created a pair performance on roller skates. That was a very extreme performance: Andriy twisted me in various acrobatic elements, holding my arms and legs, and sometimes even my neck! Everything was important there: strength, composure, stretching, attentiveness and, of course, trust – we performed on a high pedestal, and therefore we were literally responsible for each other’s lives.

It was thanks to the performance “Acrobats on rollers” that my professional dream came true – we got a job at the Cirque du Soleil. When the vacancy opened there, Andriy and I sent our promos to the casting department. And they took us! By the way, during the selection they paid attention not only to the technique, but also to the plastic and acting of the circus artist.

About work in the most famous circus in the world

The Cirque du Soleil provides the artist with everything he needs from underwear to make-up. Here we are convinced: the artist should think only about his performance and not be distracted by household chores.

I perform with gymnastic hoops of different diameters. Now I use 40 hoops (although I can do more) – this number has a rather spectacular look in the arena and is not very difficult to transport.

Andriy and I also perform the number “Acrobats on rollers”. We need a special pedestal for it – sometimes flat, sometimes with a lens and a raise. It is about 2 metres in diameter, 60 centimetres high and weighs about 80 kilograms. I am wearing a long dress decorated with stones and a long coat, which I have to take off after a few elements. This is an unusual costume for the roller genre, but we decided to make it our “highlight”. At first it was not very comfortable to perform in such clothes, but over time I learned to “tame” it:)

About training

People often think that if a performance in the arena lasts 6 minutes, then it is the whole working day of a circus artist. But this is not the case. We take part not only in our performances during the show, but also in the performances of other artists. Sometimes you have to perform two shows a day. And the day before there is an intensive training, especially – a week before the show. Rehearsals usually take place six days a week.

Some numbers we put ourselves, and in others we are helped by the director – he shows the technically correct performance of the elements. Believe me, it is impossible to learn from the video on Youtube 🙂

In addition, I train from 2 to 4 hours a day – the duration depends on whether I am preparing a new number or improving the current program. Previously, I could spend 6 hours in rehearsals – the more training, the more actively developing balance and vestibular apparatus. Also, three times a week I work on my physical shape: doing cardio, “pumping” muscles and stretching.

Before the stage

I come to the circus at least two hours before the performance to get well, check my props, do makeup and hair (I do them myself: the makeup artist helps only before professional photos or gala shows).

Until I take the first step in the arena, I feel excited and slightly anxious every time. My coach says, “If you’re not worried before a show, you’re not an artist.” With experience, of course, comes more self-confidence and ease. When something goes wrong, you can play it so that the audience does not notice anything.

Falls and ups

During my time in the circus, I only fell twice during rehearsals. Among the serious injuries, there was only a strongly stretched leg muscle. Nevertheless, I constantly feel cramping or pain, I often have mini-injuries.

Once my partner and I fell on the general run – we were simply blinded by the wrong light. There was another story when we just fell during the show! But the audience supported us and we continued our performance. It also happened that the hoop flew at the audience twice. But don’t worry – they were fine 🙂

Falls are not only physical but also moral. If there are moments of despair, I try to attend other shows – they give me the enthusiasm to continue working.

My longest tour lasted six months

Before the quarantine we had a lot of tours: America, Canada, Germany and more exotic Mexico, Malaysia, Tunisia, Qatar, Dominican Republic… We were not afraid of long flights and acclimatisation, because we travelled. There were various incidents. For example, we flew to a certain country, but our props – no. It was only found once on the day of the premiere, so there was no time for rehearsals at all.

In quarantine, contracts are more problematic.

Stereotypes about circuses

Circuses are often condemned for animal cruelty. But in fact, our circus has a great attitude to animals: they are cared for by veterinarians, they have a great diet – meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts.

Superstitions of circus artists

1. Circus artists do not sit with their backs to the arena. First, it is dangerous, because you can not notice the props or animals in the arena. Secondly, it is considered as disrespect for the workplace and the circus in general.

2. We don’t put a suit on the bed. It is believed that if you do so, there will be no work.

3. We do not step over the props of another artist before he enters the arena – this is a bad sign.

4. We also believe that it is better not to talk about your salary. It’s just a superstition.

Tips for those who want to become an artist

1. Train hard.

2. Develop your artistry – for good shows it was not enough to just perform tricks.

3. Put your soul into what you do. This is what will set you apart from others.

Wishes to the audience: Be sincere and do not skimp on applause – the artist gets a lot of motivation from your return.

My dream: To be the most popular artist and work in the best shows in the world.

*favourites:
dishes: borsch, pasta, tacos, mum’s varenyky with potatoes
movie: “Titanic” directed by James Cameron.


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