By Dominique Jando
Born in Moscow, Russia, Elena Drogaleva enrolled in the State College for Circus and Variety Arts (the famous "Moscow Circus School") in 1980. There she specialized as a juggler, and graduated in 1987 as part of an original group-juggling act, Carnaval, built under the tutelage of Tamara Babayan. The group was composed of Valdis Yanovskis, Andrey Ivanko, Kyril Balan, and Alek Novosolov.
Carnaval lasted ten years; Elena and her partners worked extensively in the Soviet Union, performing abroad for the first time in 1991-92 in Japan, in Bunishiro Matsumoto’s Musical Circus, a short-lived show conceived by Valentin Gneushev and directed by Tandy Beal. By then, the old USSR was falling apart. In 1992, Carnaval won a bronze medal at the All-Union Circus Competition—the old USSR’s ultimate circus competition. But in the turmoil of the post-Soviet era, it was not easy to keep a group act together. Eventually, after several changes of partners, Elena decided in 1999 to pursue a solo career.
Unfortunately, her new solo career didn’t last long: Victim of an accident, Elena stopped performing for a couple of years. When back in shape, she joined the Circus Nikulin company and decided to re-create her group-juggling act; the situation in Russia had stabilized then, and it had become easier to get regular contracts while staying under the protection of a Russian circus company. The year was 2002.
Her new act, variously called the Drogaleva Troupe, or Elena & Her Gentlemen, was back at the top of the bill; Elena and her partners performed it at the Fővárosi Nagycirkusz in Budapest, and in Austria, Germany, Italy, and France—where they once performed for the French Prime Minister. In 2005-2006, they were featured in the Big Apple Circus production of Grandma Goes To Hollywood for their first U.S. engagement; the troupe included then Aleksandr Smirnov, Dmitry Salov, and Irek Tasiev. In 2010-2011, they were the star attraction(Russian) A circus act that can occupy up to the entire second half of a circus performance. of the Cirque d’Hiver-Bouglione production of Prestige in Paris.
- Video: Elena & Her Gentlemen, Juggling Act, in the Big Apple Circus production of Grandma Goes To Hollywood (2005)