By Dominique Jando
Svetlana Gololobova was born on June 17, 1964 in Chimkent, Kazakhstan. At that time, Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union. At the age of fourteen, she went to the State Circus School of Tashkent, Uzbekistan—the circus school closest to her hometown. Although she received general training in all circus disciplines, Svetlana demonstrated exceptional talent for hand-balancing.
In 1981, she was selected to join a group of gifted students from Tashkent who were to be sent to the prestigious State College for Circus and Variety Arts (a.k.a. Moscow Circus School) in Moscow. There, she specialized in hand-balancing and was invited to work with Violetta Kiss, one of the college’s most talented and celebrated teachers. (Along with her brother, Aleksandr Kiss, Violetta had performed one of the most extraordinary juggling and balancing acts in the history of the Soviet circus—indeed, of the circus anywhere.)
Svetlana graduated in 1985 with (not surprisingly) a remarkable hand-balancing act titled Circus Princess, which she performed to the music of Emmerich Kalman’s popular operetta. In 1988, she participated in the USSR's All-Union Circus Competition—arguably among the most difficult circus competitions in the world at the time. Having received third prize, she proceeded to work all across the Soviet Union as well as with touring units of the Moscow Circus in Bulgaria and Austria.
In 1991, Svetlana was featured at Moscow’s Circus Nikulin, on Tvetsnoy Boulevard. She then went on tour with the Moscow Circus in Peru. On her way back, the troupe halted in Canada, where several performers, including Svetlana and her husband, Yury Gololobov, defected. She settled in Montréal, Québec, eventually becoming a Canadian citizen. There, she worked for various circuses, including Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Parasol, and the Tarzan Zerbini Circus. From 1993-98, she taught hand-balancing at Montréal’s National Circus School. Among her former students is the award-winning hand-balancer Samuel Tétrault.
Svetlana resettled in the United States in 2007. She has performed one version or another of her amazing hand-balancing act—and sometimes her aerial tissu(French) A double piece of hanging fabric, generally made of silk, used for an aerial act. (See also: Fabric, Silks) act—at SeaWorld in Florida, with Cole Bros. Circus, the Big Apple Circus, on cruise ships, and in various special events. While on tour with Cole Bros. Circus, she met its General Manager, the legendary daredevil Elvin Bale, whom she eventually married. From her first mariage, Svetlana had a son, Nikita (b. 1998), who has followed in his mother’s footsteps.
- Video: Svetlana Gololobova