Theatre

The great jugglenaut

Faeeza Ballim

Nataliya Tolstikova's circus act has taken her round the world. Her latest home is Madame Zingara's tent.

Nataliya Tolstikova’s six-minute act features unusual props that weigh up to 4kg.

Nataliya Tolstikova’s life evolved around the circus.

Born in Yalta in 1981, she started training with the Russian Circus at an early age. In 2007, her job took her to the United States, where she met her acrobat husband, who is also in the circus industry. But her travels have taken her much further afield. She has performed in Norway for the Cirkus KhaOom (2011), in Germany at the Friedrichsbau Varieté theatre (2010) and the Düsseldorf Apollo Variety theatre (2010), and in France at the Festival International du Cirque de Massy (2010).

Tolstikova is currently in South Africa as a cast member of Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams. For this show, she juggles geometric blocks weighing up to 4kg with her feet.

How popular is the circus in Russia?
It is popular, but not crazy popular. We have lots of boys and girls who go to circus schools in Russia. All Russian cities have circus theatre buildings. Moscow has two huge ones. People like the circus, but about one child in every 10 or every 20 will want to join.

What is your training like?
When I started I needed lots of practice — lots of balance, spinning and breathing exercises. But now I just need to keep it. I focus on artistic and technical details. In the beginning I would train about five hours [a day], but now a little less than that.

Do you have a role model in your work?
I wanted to be unusual and not like somebody else, so that is why I have my own props and own ideas.

Do you juggle dangerous objects?
Well, they are dangerous because they are 2.5kg to 4kg. When they stand, it is easy for them to just fall down. They are unusual objects and are specially made just for me.

How did you end up living in the United States?
I started work for an American circus company and also performed on Broadway in New York. We travelled around the United States and to Costa Rica. Then I met my husband, who is also a performer in the circus.

What do you do to relax?
I like to do sporty things like cycling, or going for walks with my husband.

Which are your favourite places to travel to?
It is hard to say. All the places I see are so beautiful. I was born by the sea so I like being by the sea, rivers and streams. I like it here in Durban, because we can see the ocean from where we are.

What are your favourite foods?
Avocado, sushi and coffee.

Do you miss Russia at all?
The United States is a very beautiful place and the circus is very popular. There are lots of companies that have work. We visit our parents in Russia, but right now I focus on work and being with my husband.

Would you like to have children?
Yes, definitely.

Would you want them to also perform in the circus?
I don’t know. We don’t try to think about the future too much.

Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams performs El Milagro de la Vida at Suncoast Casino on Durban’s Golden Mile until December 31. Website: madamezingara.com

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