YH note: The following is a republication with permission of an article by Yuval Avalon. Prompted by the number of highly talented handbalancers coming out of the Kiev circus school, he asked his friend Andrey Moraru, who studied there, about his experience.
Yuval himself is a very respected handbalancer, check his site yuvalonhands.com to see why.
Just by looking at the list of exceptional handbalancers who came out of the Kiev circus school, it is clear that something good is happening in this institute… Anatoly Zeslievsky, Denis Tolstov, Dima Bulkin (shine), Andrey Moraru and the list goes on…
My connection to Kiev is through the last handbalancer mentioned above, Andrey Moraru. He is the first handbalancing “Master” I’ve had the privilege to train and perform with. Andrey joined Le Reve (the Las Vegas show in which I perform) straight out of a 4 year program of the Kiev circus school, and was hired as a handbalancing specialist. When I joined the show, I was amazed and humbled by the fact that I work along with such an incredible handbalancer… First of all what is striking about Andrey is his physic. He is 6”3’ (1.90cm), a skinny guy, who at first glance you would not think much about… but the moment he hops on his hands you realize that something very special is happening in front of your eyes! The combination of his long lines, flexibility, incredible technique and fluidity, make him stand out even among the big names I had mentioned.
Andrey left Le Reve a few years ago, and has been continuously training and researching his unique style of handbalancing. He is slowly finding his way towards establishing his career as handbalancing soloist. Ironically only after he had left the show, I started training with him once a week on a regular basis. I feel very privileged to have had him around as a friend, mentor, and inspiration.
I must say that my training sessions with Andrey are not typical as far as training protocols are concerned. These informal meetings are usually quite an experience…. We stretch a little, do a few things on two hands, and then dive right into one arm variations. I get a few simple corrections and just stare at him in between turns, trying to absorb as much as I can…. My sessions with Andrey for the past year, followed by my daily practice, have contributed greatly to my progress. Moreover, I am ever grateful for the refinement of my technique, stability, and style that my handstands have developed.
I asked Andrey to write to me a little about his experience in Kiev, and he replied to me in length. I decided to share with you (with his permission of course) his interesting story, and his very unique approach towards handbalancing and life. Most of us will never be 16 again, or study handstand in Kiev…, but I’m sure that you will find this very interesting and inspiring as I have.
To tell you about my time in school… When I first arrived, it was like a dream come true. After my teacher at the circus studio in my home town showed us videos of all these great artists that are out there, and some of the Kiev graduates, that was it for me. It ignited a fire in me, and made me work harder and longer. I couldn’t think of anything else…, Nothing was going to stand in my way because this was a path that lead to the big world. It was the summer of 2001 when I went to Kiev for the first time. It was then that I was introduced to Vitold Kuvshinov who became my teacher in Kiev. He greeted me with a warm smile and made a few remarks about my height and what it would look like if I took my skills to a good level. Now, because I had heard that he was Anatoliy’s teacher, and by then I had already studied every move in his performance, having Vitold as my teacher was a big thing for me. I was hoping to learn some of the same qualities (of Anatoly) who inspired me so profoundly. I wanted to create something that would inspire others in similar way!
When I started my first year, I spent the first couple months talking a lot to my teacher (and training of course:-). I wanted to know everything about his work with Anatoly (the student). We became really close, which was a big surprise for me! Working with someone who would open up to you and emanate such a positive energy was not a common thing in the circus world, especially in Ukraine… When you are barely in your teens, 500 miles away from home, facing all these challenges of being in a big city, after growing up in village and leaving it to pursue the “dream,” here’s someone who’s like a breath of fresh air.
Vitold taught me to believe in myself. When I think about it, all the odds were against me… I definitely wasn’t one of the strongest guys around, I was tall as hell, and there wasn’t anyone that I knew of who attempted this. But for my teacher it was never an issue.
I was so fired up about studying in Kiev that you had to “shoot me” in order to stop me… If I thought: Ok this trick is crazy, and due to my body features I won’t be able to do it… he would just say: “Ok, here’s what you need to do…, You can start NOW”. I really listened to him and tried to do everything he said. There were others in school who didn’t They just thought of him as an old man (He was 75 years old) and “old school”, who was no longer a good source of knowledge in a sports type of way. Well, their loss…
He often told me stories of the old circus days and constantly commented on my attempts to develop a style. He saw that I had passion for dance-like type of handstands, and even though I was just starting out and made it look quite funny, he totally encouraged it, and just let me go with it. He was building my confidence and made me believe in myself! This had a great impact on me and drove me forward. It was a very special and different kind of a teacher student relationship. I loved that old man very much.
When in school I saw what Denys Tolstov was doing and it really hit me as to how much had to be accomplished… His skills were really on another level. I was so competitive, and he was even more competitive… so if I did something similar to that kind of level I would feel that I accomplished great deal because Circus was THE single most important thing to me at that time. I used to feel like I’m learning to fly and there was nothing like it.
We used to train from 9am ’till 1pm. We would then have a short break and eat, milk and bread mostly, and then go to classes like ballet, acting, and school classes. We would come back around 5 pm and train until 8 in the evening. In the end of the day you feel totally destroyed, but it’s that after effect of training that made me feel so so happy. Another day went by, you learned another trick that you didn’t think you could do. It was an amazing feeling.