The Original Object, Redux

For jugglers, a sphere can be considered the simplest or most complex of objects.  Two acts recently challenged limits and created beauty with these objects.  Dmitry Chernov, having already won a bronze medal at Cirque de Demain in Paris as a teenager, performed his shaman routine in the Big Apple Circus. Les Objets Volants, a 5-person ensemble that started as a collection of French circus students, won a silver medal at this year’s Cirque de Demain. These contemporary styles ranged from Russian circus expertise gone eccentric to nouveau Gandinism running away with a time-honored circus award.

I caught up with Chernov after seeing his performance of “Juggler Shaman” in New York last December.  My 5-year-old and I had to agree this was the best act in the show. Legendary clown Barry Lubin was a ubiquitous presence as Grandma in his last official tour with the BAC; he even came on to interact with the Shaman. But Chernov’s routine literally lit up a show that overall could lack the verve and finesse it had when Paul Binder was directing (this does not apply to every act, some of which were quite expert).

Dmytri Chernov, Big Apple Circus 2011:

Chernov also had the most ingenious costume, complete with lights and pockets all around from which objects conveniently appeared. No need for an assistant; this shaman understands his craft and entertains without exploiting it. Russian jugglers have always been able to handle high numbers of large spheres where most of us would resort to beanbags, and Chernov is no exception. Working with up to 7, he was flawless. Foot catches and acrobatic splits added dimension to the choreography.

Says Dmitry now of the creative process: “That was a long two years of creating the Shaman act, because it was hard to create the idea with pockets and to make juggling tricks with my costume. I’m choreographer and act director, and it was a big experience for me because I was 15 years old.” He acknowledges his parents for their help and guidance. His father, Valentin Chernov, worked in the Great Moscow Circus as part of Oleg Popov’s show in 1991. Two years later, Dmitry himself performed with Oleg Popov.

In 1995, Dmitry and Vanentin performed together with Popov. Since then, Dmitry has become a touring professional in his own right, performing with Neues Theater Hochst in Frankfurt, juggling on the TV show “Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde,” and appearing with Favorosi Nagycirkucz in Budapest, the Bolshoi Circus, Circus Conelli, Salon Mondial du Cirque in Paris, and at the Tokyo Dome. He also received the silver medal at the Premiere Rampe Cirque Festival.

Dmitry has also become interested in creating acts for other performers. “I have created an act for another Russian juggler, Dmitry Ikin. The name of the act is Idol.”

Dmitry reflects on his own evolution: “My performing of the Shaman act was much better at the Budapest Festival because I was already 18 years old and I already had much more experience. Paris festival was my first step and at 16 years old, to get a bronze medal was a big pleasure.” He plans to stay with the Big Apple Circus until the end of August.  After that, he says he will create a few acts as a director in Moscow and will perform in Dresden, Germany, in December.

As traditional family circus moves into the new circus world, performers with a variety of backgrounds are coming full circle into the ring. Les Objets Volants, an ensemble that started as a collective of French circus students, has been pushing boundaries and crossing borders on the juggling scene. The troupe’s original name was Dropline. The recent cast includes organizer Denis Paumier, Jonas Beauvais, Jonathan Lardinllier, Olli Vuorinen, Malte Peter, and Nicolas Longuechaud.

Paumier recalls that four years ago he proposed a teaching project in the Academie Fratellini near Paris. He was asked to participate in the selection process and recruited three new students. Another joined, and then a year later, another.  Paumier says he had an amazing experience working with the ensemble:

“They all had a large culture of juggling and each had a specific style or technique. I could bring them many other teachers to make them try different approaches. They also were able to work as a group, which is my opinion is quite uncommon in the juggling world.” With Paumier directing, the group made several appearances, including one as the opening act at Cirque de Demain in 2010.

Les Objets Volants – Transparences:

Malte Peter writes, “Alongside Denis Paumier, we are taught by Antoni (Antek) Clemm, Bene Borthe, and Ivan L’Impossible. (Sergei Ignatov was also a guest instructor.) Antek focuses on putting juggling on stage, and on working together as a group. Like Denis, Antek attaches great importance to innovation, and the passing patterns that we juggle are influenced by Gandini shows.” (Kaskade, 2010).

Les Objets comes by the Gandini influence honestly. Recently, Paumier performed with Gandini Juggling at London’s National Theater in Night Clubs and other pieces. Paumier had grown attached to working with the student group in France, so he proposed forming a professional company after graduation. The yeses were unanimous so Denis offered to act as producer.

“I contacted Cirque de Demain,” Paumier explains, “and they were interested. We worked as much as we could on the act and we were finally selected. The first version of the act (for the graduation show) was put together quite quickly with simple ideas. Some ideas came from me, some from them, and some came in the moment from nowhere special. I tried my best to give a shape to the whole thing.”

In one strikingly original move, called “the baseball trick,” a line is formed and the juggler at the head springs a line of balls off his wrist to be caught by performers in the line. While site swap is not used so much in this piece, the troupe has used it to generate new material.  What takes the Demain piece past a clinical approach to tricks is a sense of movement, particularly facilitated by Beauvais with a nice form. The music is from the French band “Ready Made,” and the song is called “Faniculaire.”

Paumier comments that the act is not a goal in itself; rather, their aim is to make a full show. This has been in progress, and the premiere is scheduled in Reims, where Paumier resides, in January of 2013. In addition to the Demain act, the show will include solo and ensemble work with various props and techniques. Whatever the future holds, these artists are having a ball creating it!

Cirque de Demain, or Circus of Tomorrow, began in order to give young performers a chance to gain recognition on an international stage. Those who consider themselves emerging artists (the exact age limit is subject to interpretation) can apply to perform and might be selected for a host of prizes from circus and variety venues in addition to the medals. To apply for next year’s festival, check

PHOTOS: Dmytri Chernov Night Clubs, Gandini Juggling Short Balls, Gandini Juggling Jonas Beauvais and others Transparencies, Les Objects Volants Dmytri Chernov, Budapest 2008

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Cindy Marvell began making her mark on New York ceilings at age twelve and has been juggling professionally since graduating from Oberlin College in 1988. The following year she became the first woman ever to win the International Jugglers' Association Championships. She has toured as a cast member with the Off Broadway show Lazer Vaudeville since 1994 including shows in Singapore, England, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Alaska, and North America. Her solo work has taken her to Europe, Japan, and ex-Soviet Georgia. In the early 90s she joined San Francisco's Pickle Family Circus with director Larry Pisoni, performing at the Palace of Fine Arts, the Guthrie Theater, and Cincinnati Playhouse-in-the-Park. She studied dance at the Limon Institute and the Isadora Duncan Foundation, performing with Howard Fireheart's dance theater company in the East Village. New York shows include Bouncing Back at the Dance Theater Workshop, Ladyfingers at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Young People's Concerts at Avery Fisher Hall, Sesame Street and the N.Y. Renaissance Festival. She has won two Groundhog Awards (the first solo woman) and a team silver medal at the IJA with the trio Darn, Good and Funny. She is co-founder of the Boulder Circus Center and has also taught at the Big Apple Circus School. DVDs include A Juggling Journey (I & II), Trailblazers: Women Who Juggle, Lazer Vaudeville Off Broadway, and Juggling for Japan (available on to benefit earthquake response). She has written a young adult novel, "Shadow Princess: An Indonesian Story" with co-author and puppeteer Tamara Fielding. The book, a performance adventure story, is available on and the Barnes & Noble website. Last August, she performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland with Freedom Family Circus and was featured in David Michelak's Slow Dance. She has a son, Theo, with hoop juggler Carter Brown.

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