When it comes to providing entertainment, performers at the Moscow State Circus don’t clown around.
This talented troupe are famous around the world for their thrilling, daredevil performances and acrobatic flair.
And, having trapezed their way into Renfrew to present a spectacular show called Babushkin Sekret, they invited the Paisley Daily Express along for a closer look at their stunning big-top routines.
At a time when the circus is considered by many people to be a rather dated form of entertainment, the guys and girls from the Moscow State Circus are still going strong.
The same, however, couldn’t be said for me after a mere 20 minutes on stage with my new tutors.
Skipping – the most leisurely of playground pursuits – becomes a military workout for the circus performers, whose fitness levels are nothing short of astounding.
Perhaps I should have known that, with the Moscow State Circus being the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to touring circuses, this wouldn’t just be run-of-the-mill skipping.
First, we jump. So far, so good. This skipping lark is easy after all.
Then it changes to skipping while on your hands and toes – in a push-up position.
“Clear the rope,” is the instruction I’m given ... but they’re not taking my limited level of agility into account.
Unlike them, I don’t spend years on tour, performing a spectacular two-hour show almost every night.
Like machines, they propel themselves two feet above the skipping rope from press-up position each time it swings round.
I manage a fairly impressive five on the bounce but, as the photographs suggest, I severely lack the grace and flight of these incredible acrobats.
Speaking to the show’s producer, Irena Archer, I learn that the mantra which holds the key to Moscow State’s longevity is simple ... once something has been done, find something even better to do.
She explained: “The show is very diverse. We’ve visited the UK for the last 15 years and this is definitely the best show we’ve ever had.
“We don’t tell the acts what to do. Each individual act comes up with their own ideas because they are constantly trying to come up with the bigger, the better, the stronger acts and tricks in whatever discipline they perform.”
With this in mind, ‘push-up skipping’ moves on to skipping while sitting on a chair!
The experts show me how it’s done – with consummate ease – but my efforts to clear the rope whilst staying perched on a wooden chair aren’t so impressive.
One practise shot and the massive crack as I slam back down to earth sends uneasy smiles and awkward laughs rippling among members of the troupe.
A few helpful words of advice later and I’m ready for Act II.
Up and over I go, managing to make sure that both myself and my chair clear the rope three times ... while staying in one piece!
I’d be smiling if I wasn’t so close to passing out.
Amazingly, my skipping challenge was just the tip of the iceberg when compared to the other array of acts the show encompasses.
There are no illusions in play here – these performers are simply jaw-dropping daredevils.
Irena said: “I’m not being big-headed but the Russian acts do make the best circuses in the world.
“There is state funding for circus schools in Russia and that’s why we produce so many good ballet dancers and circus artists and they do it all full-time.
“I go to see circuses all over Russia and receive hundreds of internet videos of incredible acts, so I can then hold auditions to make sure we get the very, very best.”
● For more information about the Moscow State Circus, visit the website at www.moscowstatecircus.com