Cirque du Soleil juggler Vladik Miagkostoupov of Dralion | Interview
Talk about being born into something! That phrase isn't often meant literally, but that's the truth behind the career of Cirque du Soleil acrobat-juggler Vladik Miagkostoupov. Born in the early '80s to Moscow Circus performers, young Vladik was tutored early on by his juggler father. By age nine, he'd perfected enough of his natural acrobatic and juggling skills to accept his own contract with the circus.
Combining a seamless balance of acrobatics, dance and juggling, the star has performed with a range of companies in Paris and Monte Carlo. He also boasts a presitigious gold medal from the Cirque de Demain in Paris, the Olympics of contemporary circus performers. Six years ago, Miagkostoupov—now 28, married and a dad—began performing in Dralion, one of Cirque du Soleil’s epic performance pieces. (You can see him in action in this YouTube clip.)
During Dralion, the four elements—air, fire, water and earth—take on human form; Miagkostoupov portrays one of the earth beings. (As with most Cirque work, there's not much more to the alleged story than that, but the elements form the framework of a show packed with stunning acrobatics, amazing costumes and thrilling live music.) Dralion’s arena tour arrives in Chicagoland this week for two separate five-day stints: First at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, beginning Wednesday, June 20; then at the United Center on the city's West Side, June 27–July 1. Last month, we sat down with Miagkostoupov to discuss his life in the circus—and then he even offered up some tips for aspiring jugglers.
What can you tell us about your character in Dralion?
Basically, it’s a character that represents “Earth.” It’s like a creature that spawns from the earth. I’m very ... animalistic, very creature.
What about this show will most resonate with kids?
For children, the clowns! The show itself, I’m sure the kids will love because it’s a lot of acrobatics. There’s a lot of movement. It’s very colorful. It’s an uplifting show. You leave feeling happy. There’s always something going on onstage.
You’ve performed this character for many years, since 2006. How often does your routine in Dralion change?
I’m always changing it. This routine I’ve actually been doing for 14 years. Every time I look at it, I’m putting in a new trick or changing the choreography. It’s constantly changing.
Do those changes happen naturally, or are you consciously looking for ways to change it?
Sometimes those changes happen naturally, yeah. Sometimes I notice, “Wait a minute! I’m doing this differently.” I don’t know how it even happens. Some things, of course, [I modify] intentionally. I add a trick in or something. It’s easy to do it in practice. I have many, many tricks in training. But when you’re on stage, it’s different because you really have to have it down perfectly. Especially [because] you get used to doing the same things for that long. So when you start to put in something new, you automatically feel your body doing something wrong. [Laughs]
How did you meet your wife, Vladik?
I met my wife on [Cirque du Soleil’s] O. It’s the water show in Vegas. She was there [performing] for seven years. I’m based out of Las Vegas, too.
And you have a daughter—how old is she?
She’s one year and four months.
Do your wife and daughter usually accompany you? What’s a typical day for your family like?
Yeah, [they do travel with me]. She’s normally at "home" with the baby. Sometimes she comes with me to work, but not that often. Normally she stays at home, and goes around to grocery shop or visit. Sometimes she watches the show. Then I get home, and that’s family time. Mondays and Tuesdays typically are [days off from performing].
How does your daughter react to your act?
Actually, she likes it! After she was ten months old, she started walking. You know when they start walking, they just run away. Surprisingly when you watch a show with her, as soon as we sit down, she’s sitting there, watching the show. I don’t know; maybe she’ll be a performer also.
Did you react similarly when your father performed?
Yeah, yeah! All the shows they were doing, the kids were running around backstage. For me, I really liked [watching].
Are there any particular lessons your father taught you that you still use today?
Everything he taught me! [Laughs] He taught me everything. One main thing: If you want to juggle, try and take dance classes. Do some other stuff, especially dance and acting. It helps you be a better performer. As a performer, you should be able to move well onstage and present yourself. It’s very important. I was lucky because my parents started taking me to dance classes [when] I was four years old. That’s a big part of it. My act is more performance juggling. I do movement and acrobatics; it’s not just static juggling. It makes it more interesting.
What advice would you give kids who are interested in circus performance, but don’t have that advantages you had growing up?
The main thing is: Just practice. Don’t lose hope. I know people who start but kind of give up after a while. Nowadays, it’s quite easy [to practice], actually. You can watch videos on YouTube. You can actually see a proper technique. You can follow along. Especially when you’re just starting, it’s a good influence. Watching shows. Staying in shape.
Speaking of staying fit, how do you stay healthy while traveling?
We’re quite lucky because on tour, there are three or four chefs that travel with the tour. Whatever city you’re at, you know it’s going to be good food. It’ll be a meal approved by the Cirque nutritionists back in Montreal.
What are some examples of what those healthy meals consist of?
[Laughs] I try to eat as much vegetables and fruits as I can. Honestly, I eat cookies. I eat chocolate also. It’s not like I don’t eat anything bad. Of course, it’s just in moderation.
While in Chicago, are there any sights you are looking forward to seeing?
I’ve been here many times actually, maybe six or seven times. We were here in Rockford and Hoffman Estates a year ago or so. I really love the city. It’s nice, especially now. The weather is good. Every time I come here, it’s always winter, so it’s very cold. [Laughs] Well, you know.
Catch Miagkostoupov and his juggling skills in Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion, showing at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, June 20–24 and the United Center, June 27–July 1. Tickets range from $35-$158; for more info, call 800-745-2000.