One of the most important names in the history of juggling is Alexander Kiss. He was the first juggler from the USSR to gain international fame and his influence on the juggling world continues today. Kiss was born on October 2nd, 1921 into a family of established circus performers. He began his performing career in the circus at the age of four and learned many skills. At the age of twelve, Alexander joined the Bor-Kiss Juggling Troupe, which was founded by Alexander’s father, Nikolai, and Boris Borisow. The troupe, which had up to eight members, performed in a picnic setting and passed bottles, plates, apples, hats, and flaming torches, often while riding on a horse-drawn carriage with one juggler standing on the horse and the other on the carriage.
Alexander and Violetta – The Amazing Brother and Sister Duo
Alexander’s sister, Violetta, was four years his junior and started working with her brother at a young age. While Alexander specialized in toss juggling, Violetta became an accomplished antipodist (foot juggler). The siblings learned to combine these skills with various balance tricks to create a unique world class act, which debuted in 1939, when Alexander was 18 and Violetta was 14. You can see photos of some of these tricks below. Other tricks included juggling while doing a head to head balance. The original act was set in a child’s playroom with the siblings portraying children quarreling over toys.
Alexander and Violetta became stars of the Soviet circus. Their duo act was recorded as part of S. Gurov & Y. Ozerov’s film Ring Of The Braves in 1954. You can see this wonderful record of their act below.
Alexander and Violetta continued to perform together until 1966, when Violetta began teaching at the Moscow Circus School. Her most famous pupil would be Sergei Ignatov. Violetta passed away in 1994. Alexander continued performing as a solo artist when Violetta left to teach.
Alexander Kiss – Juggling Superstar
During his time performing with his sister and as a solo artist, Alexander Kiss developed numerous amazing and never before seen tricks that made him easily one of the best jugglers of all time. Many of his routines, such as bouncing a springy club on his forehead while juggling seven rings, his breakdown balance / ball bounce while juggling 6 rings, and his long juggle of eight rings while balancing a pole on his forehead while balancing on a rola bola, have never been repeated by any other juggler. He is perhaps best known today as the inventor of five club back crosses. It is said that during his early years performing the trick, he was asked by other jugglers what the secret to juggling five clubs behind his back was. He refused to share the method. Finally, he relented and told them that the secret was to practice like hell!
In addition to the tricks listed above, Kiss performed a routine with four clubs and a ball, 6 clubs, five torches with a flaming balance, and 6 rings with several pirouettes. It is said that during his career Kiss invented at least 40 never before seen tricks or routines. Below are more pictures of this juggling legend.
As you might have noticed from the photos above, Alexander Kiss continually tinkered with the design of his props. Throughout his career, he experimented with different designs for his clubs, rings, bounce club, ball pedestals, and other props. Kiss was a skilled engineer and created a prop stand that would shoot clubs out to him and a rola bola base that would rise into the air. Only a few of his props still exist. Paul Bachman owns one of his versions of the bounce club and a plastic ring. David Cain owns a remarkable ring made out of aircraft aluminum, which can be seen below.
Only three videos of Alexander Kiss are available to the general public. The first was the one embedded above showing him performing with his sister. Another is the one below, showing him in 1970, at the peak of his ability and performing the act that he became most famous for.