Teaching tricks of the circus trade at the fair - Albuquerque Journal

Teaching tricks of the circus trade at the fair

Nine-year-old Rockii Tran gets juggling pointers from Alex Bistrevsky of the Interactive Circus Station at the New Mexico State Fair. Bistrevsky has been a circus performer for about 11 years. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A line of eager children await their turn to learn some circus tricks that have just been performed to perfection by Alex Bistrevsky, a man with a spotted vest who spends half of his performances teaching people how to do what a circus performer like him does.

Today, you might catch Bistrevsky, who travels nationwide with the Stilt Circus company, running through the New Mexico State Fair with his cart, teaching such circus skills as stilt-walking and juggling as part of his interactive circus station.

Bistrevsky has been a circus performer for about 11 years now. He began performing alongside his brother Dmitrious Bistrevsky and, as they delved further into the craft, they became regular performers with the Stilt Circus company.

When working as a stilt walker, the number one question people asked him was, “How do you learn that?”

So, around six years ago, he had an idea: teach circus skills from a mobile cart.

Mastering these kinds of tricks takes a lot of practice, Bistrevsky says. When he was first training to become a performer alongside his brother, they trained six to nine hours daily for a period of three years while trying not to burn out. He was 21, had no circus background and had to self-teach every single skill.

It’s hats off to Alex Bistrevsky as he performs Wednesday at the State Fair. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“I used to cry. We were in LA, we were broke and my brother’s like, ‘If you don’t juggle, we don’t eat.’ ” Bistrevsky said. “So it was like, ‘alright, it’s time to juggle.’ ”

Bistrevsky said he learned how to work with children by watching his older brother coach gymnastics. He also worked at an orphanage back in the day. It all helped him become more patient, something he said is essential in his line of work.

“Patience is the first skill I had to learn because I fail 1,000 times before I get one trick,” he said.

Bistrevsky moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting, so he studied writing and film in college. One day, a lady gave him and his brother a circus school card at a coffee shop, telling them they would be perfect for it. They initially dismissed her, but, weeks later, his brother received yet another card for the same circus school. He decided it was a sign that they should try it out.

They were so broke at the time that they had to become janitors at the school to afford the training.

“That’s how I paid my bills. I trained there three to four days a week, and I was a janitor there, so, seven days a week at the circus mopping the floors to pay for our training.” Bistrevsky said.

The 32-year-old circus performer said that, even at his age, he still finds joy in performing and loves to help other people find that as well. He said he likes to give people the comfort of knowing they can still learn something — he once taught someone with no experience how to juggle in just seven minutes.

“It’s almost childlike. It’s like you unlock the inner child and the wonder comes back,” Bistrevsky said. “And we all still have that.”

Bistrevsky said he and his brother Dmitrious used to perform together all the time, but they’ve been doing separate things for four years. His brother recently worked in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+ as the primary actor for Darth Vader. They still get to do a show together once a year and, when they do, it’s magical.

“The thing that I like most, what I hope people get out of the show, is knowing that you could take something ordinary and make it extraordinary,” Bistrevsky said. “Sticks are ordinary. Hats are ordinary. They’re not special, you know? Taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary is one of my things.”

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