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Circopedia was originally inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight


Elena Serafimovich was born in Minsk, Belarus (then in the USSR) on February 18, 1972 in a family that was not connected with the circus: Both her parents worked for import-export companies. As a child, the mixture of dance and acrobatics that rhythmic gymnastics offers attracted her, and she started training at age six. She participated in many national competitions, and eventually obtained a Master degree in Rhythmic-Gymnastics.

But Elena wanted to see the world, to go out of the confined atmosphere of the Soviet Union; so she did what many former gymnasts there did: she enrolled in Kiev’s State Institute of Variety and Circus Arts in Ukraine (still part of the Soviet Union at the time). The year was 1987. In 1989, she was hired as a top mounterIn an acrobatic or balancing act, the performer who holds the top position (on a human column, for instance). in the famous perch-poleLong perch held vertically on a performer's shoulder or forehead, on the top of which an acrobat executes various balancing figures. balancing act of Aleksei Sarach—although she was still technically a student of the school. She graduated as a "generalist" (a performer without a specific act) in 1991.

Elena worked with Sarach in the Soviet Union and on foreign tours of the Moscow Circus for eight years. Meanwhile, she longed to create an act of her own, and in 1993, she began to train on the aerial hoopA heavy metallic hoop used as a variance of trapeze, usually with contortion moves. (Also called Cerceau.), or cerceau(French) See Aerial Hoop.—an apparatus that was ideal to showcase her amazing grace and flexibility. While doing so, she caught the attention of Tatiana Assovskaya, then director of SoyuzGosTsirk (later, RosGosTsirk), the Soviet Union's state central circus organization.

With Assovskaya’s help, Elena further developed her act during a long engagement of the Moscow Circus with Circus Williams-Althoff in Germany, where she eventually premiered it in 1995. Her beautifully choreographed aerial presentation, combined with Elena’s natural grace and elegance, was an immediate sensation.... (more...)

New Essays and Biographies

New Videos

  • Louis Knie, elephants and tigers act (1976)
  • Bruno Togni, tiger act (2023)
  • RenéCasselly, Jr., acrobat on horseback (2023)
  • Anatoliy Ruban Troupe, teeterboardA seesaw made of wood, or fiberglass poles tied together, which is used to propel acrobats in the air. (2022)
  • The Ayala Troupe, high wireA tight, heavy metallic cable placed high above the ground, on which wire walkers do crossings and various acrobatic exercises. Not to be confused with a tight wire. (2022)

New Oral Histories

Circopedia Books

A Message from the Founder

CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

Dominique Jando
Founder and Curator