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Russian Immigrants In Las Vegas ~ Many Came Here To Perform In Cirque Du Soleil

Updated on August 13, 2013
Russian circus performers were considered to be stars in Russia.
Russian circus performers were considered to be stars in Russia. | Source

Beautifully Orchestrated Varekai ~ Russian Swings Cirque du Soleil Act

Stellar Athletes Immigrated to The U.S.

It has been estimated that nearly 2,000 Russian athletes and their families (about 300 of those are the athletes), currently live in the City of Las Vegas, and those estimates could very well be on the low end. Back in the early 1990s, when prospects for jobs in the Soviet Union grew dimmer, once successful and highly revered circus performers found themselves out of work. The country they loved was falling apart, rubles lost their value and a unique new brand of circus show was being started here in the United States, in Las Vegas, Nevada, known as Cirque de Soleil.

At a time when Las Vegas was leaning towards more family friendly entertainment, to contrast with all the sinful, strip shows and showgirl revue productions that were an inherent part of Las Vegas culture of the strip, Cirque de Soleil was launched in 1993. It began on Christmas Eve of 1993, with the opening of the first Cirque de Soleil show known as "Mystere". Cirque de Soleil was searching for Russian talent, knowing their great reputation as a country that produces and nurtures outstanding and brilliant gymnastics performers and circus entertainers, it was a natural fit for them to find these athletes to perform here in Las Vegas in their Cirque du Soleil shows.

And it was natural for the performers, who were witnessing their own country falling apart and who were simply trying to survive and provide a good life for their families by relocating to the United States, to move here. Being able to continue to do a job that they loved was a very attractive bonus. One could even say that these entertainers were blazing a trail by bringing an entirely new form of entertainment to the Las Vegas strip, which at the time was mostly famous for nightclub lounge acts, strip tease shows, somewhat "raunchy" comedians, and other shows that were not especially suited for family entertainment.

Most of these stellar athletes, trapeze artists and circus performers left a life in the Soviet Union where they were revered and treated the way Hollywood stars are treated here in the U.S. They would perform in the circus in the Soviet Union and small children would go up to them after the show and hand them flowers. Their jobs and lives were romanticized in Soviet culture and many of them tell interesting stories of having started performing as very small children, traveling with a circus at a young age. Stories were told by the performers of traveling all over the Soviet Union as children, growing up on trains and in dressing rooms and changing schools often. At the time, they were known as "circus kids." Fond memories like these sometimes made leaving difficult, if not for the trouble that their beloved country was in back in the early 1990s.

Coming to the United States for the first time was an eye-opening experience for these young Russian immigrants from the Soviet Union. They felt as if they had landed in a paradise of sorts. They would talk of the firsts they experienced here, being able to get a first car, first time being able to get a driver's license and one even spoke fondly of a first "dip" in a jacuzzi. I can only imagine how fascinating the newness of this country must have seemed to these young people who were just coming to America and experiencing it all for the first time.

Where Else Would A Trapeze Artist Be Able To Find Work?

Trapeze artists would have a hard time finding work if it hadn't been for "Cirque Du Soleil" here in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Trapeze artists would have a hard time finding work if it hadn't been for "Cirque Du Soleil" here in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Source

Russian Acrobats Had A Reputation Of Being Hard Workers

Pain and injuries aside, these dedicated performers put on great shows and worked hard to provide a new life for their young families here in the United States. And once the shows no longer featured the acrobatics they did, they either took other parts in shows, got out of entertainment altogether, or some of them held on to entertainment jobs in very different capacities. One former Cirque Du Soleil performer tells of being hired on as a rigger, working backstage setting up concert equipment for the likes of such bands as "Kiss" and "The Rolling Stones". And Las Vegas is one of the few places here in the United States where show business jobs are more readily located.

In fact, Las Vegas is one of the few places, if not the only place that can say that it has an immigrant population that consists of former magicians, trampoliner's, acrobats, high wire walkers, animal trainers and clowns among it's residents! I knew from the time we first moved here that this is an interesting city, full of such history and variety in its residents and in its past... I didn't realize HOW interesting it was until I had lived here for a while!

Some of the athletes, once they were finished with their Cirque careers, would take on roles of teachers here in town, either teaching gymnastics to young people, or they would find other sports careers like in Martial Arts, either practicing the martial arts or teaching classes. Others took totally different jobs such as painting and roofing contractors, and taxi drivers.

You would rarely ever hear one of the Russian immigrants talk of leaving the United States to go back to Russia once here, one man even said that if he did go back, he probably wouldn't even recognize the place. I'm sure things have changed in Russia as they have all over the world, and circus performers may not be as important to the culture of Russia these days, as they once were. Back in Russia, the circus was revered in a similar way that Major League Baseball is here in the United States.

Today there are about 70 performers still performing in Cirque Du Soleil, they are some of the acrobats you see in those shows, and put on stunningly beautiful performances night after night. My husband and I went to see "The Beatle's Love" Cirque Du Soleil show, and it was just spectacular. There aren't many shows that I tell people that I would go to see more than once, Cirque Du Soleil is one that I would go to see again. Simply amazing.


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    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Absolutely, cebutouristspot, they are amazing performers, and VERY hard working! :) We were impressed by how GREAT they are! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

    • cebutouristspot profile image

      cebutouristspot 5 years ago from Cebu

      Well they are excellent performer that is why they are given an opportunity for a better in the US (Las Vegas). They work hard to perfect their act and are rewarded