Page 24                                                       Fall 1988

When Sergei Ignatov Speaks, Jugglers Listen!


By Christopher Majka


I trust that for readers of this magazine, or for jugglers in general, the name of Sergei Ignatov needs no introduction. He is renowned for his remarkable, almost unbelievable, feats with five and seven balls, three, four and five clubs and up to the legendary number of eleven rings. His routines and tricks were well described by Jim Neff in last winter's Juggler's World.


The program of the Moscow Circus describes him thus: "As a professional juggler, Sergei constantly strives to maintain the intensity of emotion he experienced as a child when viewing the circus for the first time. It is this never-relaxed state of "living on the edge" to which Sergei attributes his success. This intense motivation is both exciting and electrifying to behold. "


He has twice visited North America , the first time in 1977 on a tour which pushed back conceptions on what was possible with five clubs as well as demonstrating his skill with nine, ten, and eleven rings. His second tour was last fall when the Moscow Circus crossed Canada for two months.


On the first stop of that tour in Halifax , I had a chance to meet Sergei Ignatov. I speak fluent Russian and spent some months studying in Moscow , where I had the opportunity to see the Moscow Circus in situ. Ignatov was then (in 1979) elsewhere.


I saw his performance for the first time in the giant Halifax Metro Center last fall. Over subsequent days we met and talked. I had a chance to see his warm-up routine and parts of the Chopin routine which he was not able to perform on this tour (see interview). I also had the opportunity to meet his charming wife, tightrope-walker Marina Osinskaya. Her superb act, which opened the performance of this tour, includes walking both up and down a 45-degree inclined tightrope and walking it ballerina­style "en pointe."


The couple has two children, a son and a daughter. Ignatov also has a brother who is a juggler.


Sergei was born in East Germany where his father, an army officer, was stationed. He returned to Moscow when he was two months old and has lived there ever since.


If you've ever wondered what Ignatov does for relaxation, you might be interested in knowing that he is an astute admirer of art who has visited art galleries throughout the world on his travels.


Ignatov's warm-up routine is slow and methodical. He starts with about an hour of yoga-like exercises to relax his body and put him in the correct frame of mind. The next hour is spent on calisthenics and working with single or small numbers of objects. He is very concerned about correct body posture and observes himself carefully to ensure that the positions of his hands and arms are correct.


Only then does he start working with the routines in his act.  He moves quickly between rings, balls and clubs for the next two-and-a-half hours, never letting himself grow tired with one routine; always allowing one set of muscles to rest while exercising another set. He rests in the afternoon and then does a one­hour warmup and rehearsal before his evening performance.


In performance he was doing nine rings flawlessly. In rehearsal he showed me ten rings, which he did several times without any drops and finished by pulling them down over his head. I watched him throw eleven rings at the end of his rehearsal, my eyes bulging from my head. He dropped a couple after some 17 or 18 throws and apologized for not being sufficiently warmed up.


He manufactures his own props. To many western jugglers they would appear crude and simple. The rings, for example, are quite hard and inflexible. The large and soft balls which he uses are children's balls which he bought in Japan and not been able to find anywhere else.


This tour of the Moscow circus also featured Soviet strongman juggler Vyachaslov Anokhin. Anokhin did some remarkable things with up to five bronze cannon balls and repeatedly caught on the back of his neck a huge, 150 lb. iron ball.


Sergei Ignatov clubs

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