Andrii Bondarenko is a 28 year old Ukrainian acrobat currently touring with Cirque du Soleil's newest Big Top show Kurios. Get to know a bit of Andrii as he tells us about his acrobatic beginnings, how he ended up in Cirque du Soleil, when his dream came true and much more!




Where were you born?
I was born in Ukraine – Mykolayiv city. It’s close to Odesa. It’s south.

How old are you?
I’m 28.

Do you come from an acrobatic background or a circus background?
I came from acrobatics. At the age of 10, my father brought me to acrobatic sports. It was kind of late because usually kids start at 6 years old. I had some basics because I was taking part in karate, so I had some flexibility. It helped me for my future in Acrosports. In 2002 I won my first world competition. It was at the European Championships in Belgium. I won 1st place (I won three gold medals). I started to go on many competitions and usually placed 1st and 2nd place. I won World Games – it’s like Olympic Games but for sports not included in Olympics Games. It’s a very important competition. So, I won this competition in 2005 in Duisburg, Germany. After that, I decided no more Acrosports, so I left acrobatics.

In 2006, Cirque du Soleil invited our four-men group to do general formation for 3 months. I was the flyer in our four-men group. We were learning acting and dance, so it was a really good experience for us. After this formation, we went back home and after maybe one month, we got a proposal to do special events with Cirque du Soleil. We did a special event for Mercedes(Benz) McLaren in Spain. I met Michel Laprise in 2007 when we did a special event for Fiat Bravo, which he directed.

So you went to Cirque du Soleil in 2006. You said that you were scouted by Cirque du Soleil; you didn’t audition. Cirque invited you to do the formation?
Yes.

And when you did the formation, you weren’t invited for a show yet…
It was formation for Quidam Banquine but only two of us had proposals, so we decided to stay together and said no to Cirque. In 2010, we were working in another show, not with Cirque du Soleil, and our group was separated. After that we got proposals again from Cirque du Soleil to join Quidam’s Arena tour in the Banquine group.

It was actually my dream since I was young. I saw Quidam on TV and it was my dream to get in Quidam’s Banquine group. My dream came true in 2010.

So you grew up knowing about Cirque du Soleil and knowing about Quidam. Was that always your goal? Were you working towards being in Cirque du Soleil, Quidam or did this just happen?
I would say yes. It was one of my favorite shows ever since I saw it on TV. It just was my dream to get there.

So it was a formation for Quidam’s arena tour in 2010 and we started working in 2011.

How long did you do the special events for?
It was just temporary contracts; just for a few weeks. We did two with Cirque du Soleil. After that, we worked in varieties/dinner shows in Germany.

Now, in 2010, you’re in Quidam and you’re doing the formation. The formation process – would you say it’s difficult? How was the experience for you?
You mean from 2006 or 2010?

From 2010 when you were joining Quidam…
It was a good experience and it was kind of hard. We had two trainings a one day. The first training started at 8 and finished at 12, followed by a break. The second training started at 4 and we would usually finish at 8 or 9. It was hard work, but we did it. It was a good experience. This formation was in Verkhivtseve, Ukraine. It was actually creation for Quidam’s arena tour. We spent about 7 or 8 months there before we went to Montreal. There were 22 people in Verkhivtseve, Ukraine for creation but only 18 went to Montreal. It was also kind of audition.

What did you like about Quidam so much that you wanted to be part of that?
I really like the idea and the music. When you’re watching Quidam and Zoë puts the hat on her head and the chairs start to go up, you get goosebumps. It’s really impressive. It has really strong music. The acts are really strong. For me, even now, it’s one of the best shows.

How long were you in Quidam?
I left Quidam in January 2014 and I got a proposal to join the new show. The name was still Cirque 2014. I said ok and they invited me first as a Banquine flyer. Also, I was supposed to be a backup for Rola Bola and do Hand Balancing on the platform, if Rola Bola is not working.

You were contracted to do Banquine, but what act are you currently performing? You’re not doing Banquine anymore, right?
No. I was learning Hand Balancing and if you saw my act with the chairs, before, the idea was only the top. It just happened with time and now I’m doing Hand Balancing. Two weeks before the premiere, the creator, Michel Laprise, decided to implement this chair act from the bottom and to build the chairs and start the dinner from the bottom. It’s like a surprise. The guy starts to build the chairs from the top; It’s kind of a mirror effect. This show is now one of my favorite and I’m so happy to be here.

Let’s go back to the creation process of Kurios. How was that?
For me it was good. It was not really difficult. We had a really good creator, Michel Laprise. He’s really smart. He had crazy ideas and he made these ideas work in this show. You will be surprised when you see the show. You’re not going to expect this.

Did you find that Michel Laprise has a different thought process because he comes from Cirque du Soleil?
I think he was in auditions first, in casting. Actually, for this show, he invited some artists himself.

So he was scouting for the artists himself?
Yes, most of the artists. It’s very easy to work with him because he has a good experience with the people and he’s a really nice person. He didn’t press on the artists and it was a pleasure working with him.

What does your act represent in the show and how does it fit in?
It’s called Upside Down World. So, I start from the bottom and I build the chairs up.  At one point there is a pause and all the focus goes to the top. We start the dinner on the bottom and then when my act starts. I’m trying to reach the chandelier because there is a character (The Mentalist) who pulls the chandelier up. I’m trying to reach the chandelier, which is why I’m building the chairs. I’m also doing some hand balancing tricks. At the pause, all the focus goes to the top when the chandelier goes higher, then you see the top has the same dinner we have on the bottom. It’s a really good effect and the people react very well. The top chandelier goes down and the guy starts to build chairs from the top. Eventually, we meet in the middle and we hold the chandelier. He holds from the top and I hold from the bottom. It’s like a mirror effect.

In Quidam you were part of a team, Banquine, and now you’re more of a solo performer. Do you like this better? Do you find that it’s too different?
Sometimes I miss Banquine, but all the time when I’m on stage, I really love my job. It doesn’t matter for me if I’m doing Banquine or if I’m doing a solo act, I’m always trying to do my best. Of course a solo act for me is better. Now I’m doing Hand Balancing and I really love it. Also, I was working with my brother in Quidam.

Is your brother still with the show?
Yes. He’s still in Quidam.

What is your training schedule like?
I usually have training on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We only have one day off – on Monday. Sometimes, although not often, Monday and Tuesday, but usually only Monday off. My training starts on Tuesdays around 1 or 2 pm. I usually wake up, have some coffee and then I go to the Big Top. We have free food here, so I have my dinner and then I do my warm up and start to train.

How long does it take to do your makeup?
About 45 minutes. It’s not hard for me.

What do you like to do on your days off?
I like biking, I like to go to a park. It depends on the weather. It also depends on the city – if we have some beaches, swimming pool, I prefer this. Usually on Sundays after two shows we go to the sauna and relax in there because it’s very important for us to relax our body and muscles.

Do you usually do stuff in the morning before a show?
Yes. Sometimes we have some media interviews and then some training. For example yesterday, kids came to Cirque du Soleil from Cirque du Monde. I had training but some guys were doing workshops with them.

What would you say is the toughest part of the touring life?
You know, I like my life because it’s touring life and we meet new people, new cities, new hotels, new apartments, new places. We’re exploring as much as we can. When I was in Quidam, it was an arena tour and we changed cities every week, so we only had two days off. We couldn’t see too much in two days because on Mondays we would be tired, so we would stay in the hotel. On Tuesdays we went out and saw some monuments, some good places. Here in the Big Top, I like it better because we stay 2 or 3 months in one place, so we have more time to see and explore the cities and new places.

Do you plan on staying with Kurios for a while?
I will see. So far, yes. I like this show. Like I said, I think it’s a very successful show and one of the best in Cirque du Soleil. I like our team; we’re like a big family. Everybody cares about each other and we support one another. I really like it.

In your opinion, why should we see the show?
In this show you will see some crazy ideas that you’re not expecting. It’s not the standard way of the Cirque. Here are so many new ways. Even if you come only to the Big Top area, you will see characters already waiting for you on the Big Top roof.

Speaking of characters, do you think in the future you would be open to maybe playing a character?
Yeah. Actually, when I was in Quidam, I was the Target character backup. I was doing the Target character and then I would change my costume to do Banquine. After my act I would run backstage to change my costume again and I would go into the finale as the Target character. Yes, I’m open to this as well. I really like the stage. I’m enjoying every moment on stage.

What can you say to those who are aspiring to be performing on stage?
Just enjoy and give to the public all your energy and you will receive double or triple back.

[Photos: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca]
[Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil]