Oleg Izossimov

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Hand Balancer

By Dominique Jando


Oleg Izossimov
Considered the greatest classic hand balancer of his generation, Oleg Izossimov was born in Chelyabinsk (a Russian city located east of the Ural Mountains) on August 24, 1965. His family had nothing to do with the circus, but when Oleg was twelve years old, he saw the Russian hand balancer Nikolai Kasse in a circus performance, and he was so impressed that he decided then and there that this was what he would do. He would never forget Kasse's act.

Oleg joined a local amateur circus (the Russian equivalent of a youth circus, but at a much higher level than in Western Europe or America), and started training in the full range of circus disciplines, still keeping his mind focused on hand balancing. After finishing school, Oleg decided to apply to the State College for Circus and Variety Arts in Moscow, the celebrated "Moscow Circus School". He was refused three years in a row, and was finally accepted in 1986—in the nick of time, since 21 was the age limit.

There, Oleg studied all what a circus artist should know, and then specialized in hand balancing. He was trained in this demanding specialty by two remarkable teachers, Vladimir Alekseev and Valentina Mandich. (Valentina was the widow of one of the school’s most prolific and successful teachers, the legendary Yury Mandich.) The creation of Oleg’s act took three years of intensive practice; it was ready, in its original version, for Oleg's graduation in in 1990.

Award Winner

As early as 1989, however, Oleg Izossimov had already participated in his first circus festival, La Piste aux Espoirs, in Tournai, Belgium—a festival well-known for featuring high-quality new acts produced by circus schools. Oleg received the first of the many awards he would gather over the years, the Courrier de l’Escault prize. He received his second award upon his graduation: the prestigious Rumyantsev-Karandash award, given in Russia to the best new act of the year.

Oleg’s true professional debut was in 1991, when he was invited to join a company of the Moscow Circus that was then touring the U.S. with The Flying Cranes. But the version of his act that made him a true circus star, Caruso, was created in 1993 at Circus Nikulin in Moscow. The following year, Oleg Izossimov was the sensation of the short-lived (1992-1994)—albeit well-remembered and sorely missed—International Circus Festival of Verona (Italy), where he won the highest honor, the Gold Star.

Oleg Izossimov's brilliant international career was thus launched in Verona. He has since been featured in some of the best varietés, circuses, and nightclubs of Europe, including TigerPalatz in Frankfurt, WinterGarten in Berlin, the Lido of Paris, Palazzo in Hanover, Circus Conelli in Switzerland, the Sporting Club of Monte Carlo, GOP Varieté in Germany, as well as Teatro ZinZanni in the U.S., to name but a few.

In 1996, Oleg won the prestigious Silver Clown at the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo, followed by the First Prize at the International Circus Festival of Enschede, Holland, the following year. He was also a special guest at the International Circus Festival of Budapest, Hungary, in 1998. One of the highlights of his career, however, was in 2006, when he was invited by the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo to participate in an all-star tribute to the late Prince Rainier III of Monaco, in a show that will probably be remembered as the greatest circus performance of all times.

Oleg Izossimov has directed several circus and variety shows, including Anagramma (2005) for Rolf and Gregory Knie’s Salto Natale in Zürich, Switzerland, and Voom (2006) and Ballon (2009) for the Apollo Varieté of Düsseldorf, Germany. Oleg was invited to participate in the Jury of the 30th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris, in 2009. He has also been the subject of several works by the American sculptor Richard MacDonald.

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