He’s a solo handbalancer in one of the biggest shows coming to Brisbane next month! But his work with Cirque du Soleil spans decades working on many of their itnernational stage productions. In this interview we get insight into Ukranian native, Andrii Bondarenko as he takes us into the world behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil currently in Sydney and touring throughout Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth throughout 2020.
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What would you say to a person who couldn’t take the steps to follow their calling or dream like you have?
I saw Cirque du Soleil on TV in 2002 when I had just been chosen for the National team of Sport Acro in the Ukraine and at that moment I only could dream about that job, because I’m originally from a small town Nikolaev which is even so hard to find on any map! I was lucky, because casting took place at competitions sometimes where they would search for new athletes and artists. After retiring from sport I was contacted by casting and was invited to join Cirque du Soleil in their production at that time, Quidam, as a Banquin flyer. Working on that production as a flyer for 4 years, I developed a growing passion for the handstand. I was staying back almost every day after the shows and working hard on perfecting my Handbalancing. After that I started to send videos with my Handstand and Hanbalancing to casting and eventually I was invited to join the newly created show in 2014 which Australia is seeing now (Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities), as a Handbalancer on chairs. It was a very long and hard journey to work as a soloist, but my dream came true! So never give up and follow your dreams!
For people that have yet to see the show – can you tell us a bit about the storyline of Kurios and how your character fits in to it?
KURIOS is the story set in the 19th century, when people appreciated electricity, trains, music from gramophones, and steam punk style. When THE SEEKER falls asleep in his cabinet, he awaks in a world of imagination where anything is possible. He is curious about details and then the magic begins…. You can expect to see some gymnastics skills in my act, direct from the creator of the show.
The cast and crew of Cirque / Kurios are comprised of some of the best live performers in the world – what’s the relationship like with such a large diverse group everyone has with each other especially when touring new countries, cultures and being away from your own families?
We are a big family in the show, we probably spend more time with each other then with our real family. So we are always supporting each other and have great relationships!
One funny story that comes to mind is when Kazuha Ikeda who plays Klara, put some small stickers on the plates used in one of my acts. The lights game on and we were performing live while reading the names of meals she had stuck on the plates only we could see and they were so outrageous and funny.
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In my opinion one of funniest cast members is Victor Degtyarev from the Acronet act, just because he is always getting in some funny situations and stories, we all even suggested him to right a book with his stories.
What’s a normal day for you like on show night?
I have travelled with Cirque Du Soleil around over then 10 different countries and total by my own over 20 countries and follow a strict routine. I prefer to come to work 2 hours before the show, the first 30 minutes is snacks or coffee time, another 30 minutes for makeup and one hour for my warm-up with stretching and handstands.
Do you get to engage much with fans of the show as you tour around? Favorite fan moments or stories you can share?
I do have many fans who I’ve become friends with. But I think one of the our troupe are quite fond of are our Japanese fans. We are still receiving some presents from them, even after the show ended like 6 months ago already!
Have you been to Australia before? If you haven’t what are some of the things / places you would like to see in while you are here with us?
Yes I have been to Australia 2 years ago with my Handstand workshops tour which toured four cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. I’m looking forward to explore these cities more, because last time I was really busy with work and didn’t have too much personal time. I’m very keen to go and see Lake Hillier and maybe Tasmania if I have time. Last time I was here, I went to Rottnest Island to see quokkas, so I’m looking forward to going back there again when we start performing in Perth.
Due to overwhelming demand, Cirque du Soleil announced last month one final extension of performances in Brisbane with new performances running through to 23 February. It premieres under a brand-new white-and-grey Big Top on 10 January 2020 at Northshore Hamilton. Written and directed by Michel Laprise, KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a tale in which time comes to a complete stop, transporting the audience inside a fantasy world where everything is possible. In this realm set in the latter half of the nineteenth century, reality is quite relative indeed as our perception of it is utterly transformed.
Since its debut, critics across North America, Japan and Singapore have been raving about KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities. In an alternate yet familiar past, in a place where wonders abound for those who trust their imagination, a scientist (“The Seeker”) is convinced that there exists a hidden world – a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams await. Queensland has a special connection to this production of Cirque du Soleil with homegrown superstar trampolinists, Fletcher Donohue and Nathan Dennis featuring in the show.
Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca
Video: Strength Project
Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil