Theatre — The Russian/American Kids Circus

The Russian/American Kids Circus

by Michelle Saturley

Everything you want in a circus ...

... and none of the clowns

As a child, I had a love-hate relationship with the circus.

I was fascinated by the acrobats — the beautiful limber people who defied gravity and the laws of physics by twisting themselves into pretzel shapes, hundreds of feet in the air. I admired the trapeze artists and jugglers, because they were usually families who passed the skills of the trade on to their children, so by the age of 10, these kids were amazing.

But the trained animals — usually consisting of a drugged-out tiger, some miserable-looking horses and a handful of elephants who looked like they were about to snap and pull a Dumbo’s Mom — were rather depressing.

Then there were the clowns. Those demonic, yellow-toothed monsters who always smelled like day-old coffee grounds and seemed like they’d rather be popping your head off like a dandelion than making balloon animals. Hey, I saw Poltergeist as a youth — I knew enough to realize that clowns are instruments of the devil.

My own children have often pestered me to take them to the circus, but I’ve always managed to avoid it. Luckily, there’s a clown- and animal-free alternative: The Russian/American Kids Circus, which comes to town Jan. 2 at The Palace Theatre.

The Russian American Kids Circus is the brainchild of Alex Berenchtein, a former star of the famed Moscow Circus. Berenchtein and his wife, Regina, along with mother-in-law Olga Partigul, opened a nonprofit program in Brooklyn, NY called The New Way Circus Center. The center was aimed at inner-city kids of Russian descent, as a way to preserve their heritage while living in the United States. The program was also designed to boost self-esteem and confidence by learning to perform in front of an audience.

The response to the program was so phenomenal, the Berenchteins decided to take their show on the road. In 1994, The Russian/American Kids Circus was born, starring the advanced students of the program, ages 6 to 16, along with performing eye-boggling acrobatics and juggling on tightropes, bicycles and unicycles and on the ground. The troupe has made television appearances on Good Morning America and Russian International TV, and garnered attention from The New York Times and Life Magazine.

The performers’ routines are in the tradition of “Cirque du Soleil,” with a little less emphasis on swirly costumes and music, and more focus on the strength, balance and agility of these talented kids. Their last New Hampshire appearance was a year ago at the Lebanon Opera House, where they performed to a packed audience.

The Russian/American Kids Circus comes to town on Monday, Jan. 2, at 3 and 6 p.m. at The Palace Theatre, located at 80 Hanover St.. For tickets, call the box office at 668-5588.

-Michelle Saturley

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