Written by Jemma Dooreleyers
With Cirque du Soleil coming to Kingston in just a few weeks, it is impossible to avoid falling back into your childhood fantasies about how glamourous it would be to run away with the circus. Let’s be honest, with every colourful Corteo Billboard we see, a little part of us longs to be swinging on trapezes and it becomes increasingly difficult not to imagine what your life would be like if you stuck with those ‘Tumbling Tots’ lessons your parents signed you up for when you could barely walk.
However, during these little excursions into an alternate universe in which you juggle dangerous objects for a living, it is rare to think about the real- life implications of something that seems so out of reach. How many injuries would you have to recover from? How many hours spent training? What are the mental challenges that come with forcing your body to reach such unnatural limits? What does touring do to your family life?
Well, that is why we contacted Svetlana Tsarkova, a pro juggler for the Cirque du Soleil. She is a prime example of how, in order to stick with something so challenging, you have to really love it. Tsarkova has been juggling and training in acrobatics since she was 13, however her love for gymnastics started long before then.
“I was into regular gymnastics a little bit, but then I went to a circus studio one time and I found it the most fun thing ever,” Tsarkova said.
In fact, she started training as contortionist originally and was told that because she was a girl that she had better keep in contortion. She can now balance a whole chair with just her body.
After completing “regular university” and before she joined Cirque du Soleil in 2010, Tsarkova trained at the Kiev Circus School.
“I was crazy enough,” she said with a giggle. “Normally people go off and do other things, but for me it had to be circus school.”
After her time at circus school, she worked as a coach for a circus studio and with the rhythmic gymnastics team for Russia. She then went on to study at the Stockholm Dance and Circus University (DOCH) and trained under Jay Gilligan, a world-renowned juggling coach. She also made it to YouTube’s Top 40 list in 2014 and 2015.
During her craziest times she would train up to 8 hours a day at the studio. However, to Tsarkova, it never felt like work. “It does not feel like 8 hours,” she says. “Time flies by because it is a passion. You love it and you couldn’t be anywhere else.”
However, these days, Tsarkova is finding it much more difficult to spend up to eight hours at the studio every day. This is because, not only is she touring internationally with the Cirque du Soleil, she is joined by her two-year-old daughter, who will not be named for privacy reasons.
Much like when at 13 she was told to stick with contortion because she could never become a juggler as a woman, she decided that she would not stop what she loved doing just because she is a mother. So instead of leaving her baby behind and missing out on important milestones, she figured it was better for them to just travel together.
“In some ways it is super fun because she is seeing a lot of things,” said Tsarkova. “And she is trying to speak everyone’s languages.” And that’s no small task: the entire cast of Corteo represent more than 15 nationalities speaking languages such as English, French, Russian, Spanish and more.
However, as any mother with a two-year-old will know, there are also many challenges with being in a different setting depending on the month and the schedule.
“It is sometimes very difficult for her and also for me,” she said. “You constantly have to think about where you have to be at what times for eating and sleeping.”
Despite the challenges, Tsarkova says that it is always best to have her daughter with her.
With a mother this talented, one would think that her daughter would be biting at the bit to try and test her genetic abilities, but according to Tsarkova, she thinks her daughter is too young to really understand that what her mother does is special. However, her daughter does sometimes tries to mimic what Tsarkova is doing and never fails to impress.
“The other day she sort of did a split and everyone was kind of like ‘Whaaat!’” she admitted.
But when asked about juggling, Tsarkova just laughed and said, “I don’t juggle much in the house anymore. I don’t want to set an example and have her breaking anything.”
She does not know yet if her daughter shares the same passion for acrobatics and juggling, but she wants to be supportive in any path she chooses.
“It is her decision to make,” said Tsarkova. “I just want her to be happy in everything she does.”
As for advice for young acrobats that share her passion she wants them to know: “The most important thing is that you have passion. We are all afraid of something but if you have a dream, you just have to let it be and make your dream come true. “
In the future, Tsarkova would like to return to coaching because she enjoys spending time with children, and most importantly she would like to spend as much time with her daughter as possible.
You can see Tsarkova and the rest of the Cirque du Soleil cast perform Corteo at the Leon’s Centre (formerly K-Rock Centre) from Wednesday, July 4 to Sunday, July 8 2018.