By Dominique Jando
A former rhythmic gymnast of the Soviet Gymnastics Team and a Silver Medalist at the 1985 USSR championships, Yelena (or Elena) Larkina joined Moscow’s State College of Circus and Variety Arts (a.k.a. the Moscow Circus School) in 1987, where the famous Russian act director Valentin Gneushev noticed her.
Gneushev made Yelena the dancer-assistant to the late juggler-on-rolling-globe, Yury Borzykin, with whom she performed, in 1991, at the Gershwin Theater on Broadway, in Steve Leber’s production of Cirk Valentin. In that show, Yelena also performed an early version of her hula-hoop act.
When Yelena returned to Moscow, Gneushev helped her develop her hula-hoop act into something unique. In the act, which was set to Middle Eastern music, the choreography and presentation were as important as her remarkable technique. The act was an immediate sensation, not least because—in the early performances—Yelena performed topless under a light veil that her dancing movements made teasingly move to and fro.
In 1994, Yelena's act won a Bronze Medal at Paris’s Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain—a remarkable feat, considering the high level of the acrobatic competition, which tends to overshadow specialties such as hula-hoop acts.
Yelena Larkina has since been featured in many of the world’s major circuses and variety shows, including: Cirkus Benneweis in Denmark; the Big Apple Circus in the United States; Circus Knie and Circus Conelli in Switzerland; and, in Germany, Circus Krone, Frankfurt’s TigerPalast, Düsseldorf’s Apollo Varieté, and Berlin’s WinterGarten.
Yelena Larkina is married to juggling legend Kris Kremo.
- Video: Yelena Larkina, hula-hoop act, at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (1994)
- Video: Yelena Larkina, hula-hoop act, in the Big Apple Circus production of Celebrate (2007)