High Quality is Art. Interview mit Sergej Ignatov
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  Englische Originalversion des Interviews

Tick: You looked very relaxed during your show, smiling...

Sergei: Yes, when you saw my show it was a very good day for me. This does not happen every day. I never work in the middle. Either it is very good or very bad. It was a good day and a very good audience. And it is very important to reach the audience. Because the people give you information and they give you energy. And if the contact works, it is fantastic. In Austria the audience is very good.

Tick: Let's start with your biography. Where there other circus-artists in your family?

Sergei: My grandfather worked at the circus with horses for 25 years, but not in the manege. My uncle was working with wild animals.

Tick: When did you start to juggle?

Sergei: When I was a little boy, I liked football, forests, things that every little boy likes. I did not think of becoming a juggler. And in 1965 I started in the Moscow Circus School. In the first year I had courses in acrobatics, high-wire, juggling, tightrope, gymnastics and in the second year I really started juggling. As I had problems with my knee I had no chance to be an acrobat. I understood that I have to express myself through juggling. And I had a very good teacher, Violetta Kiss. I practised with her for three years and in this time I got really good results. When I started, I only juggled four balls and after three years I did nine rings, and I practised eleven rings and eight big balls. But these three years were terrible, I had to practice more than eight hours a day.

Tick: Did you already perform during this time?

Sergei: In the circus school I studied from 1965 to 1968. I only performed when I had intermission from the circus school between the third and the fourth course, but only for one month. Then I came back to school, studied for another year. I started my work in 1969. Now I practise for 32 years.

Tick: Now you are one of the best jugglers in the world.

Sergei: I was, many years ago, yes, I have been taking a direction in juggling and for everybody in the world - everyone understood what is possible in juggling, and not only the flash.

Tick: So which were the main reasons for your success?

Sergei: I had a very good teacher. This is it: the contact to the teacher, my character, my aim, hard work. And I had very good heels because every day I practised many hours.
Hard work, talent, teacher, character and heels - all together.

Tick: Your numbers juggling is famous...

Sergei: When I started in the Moscow Circus School in 1965 my country was closed from the others. There was the big wall around my country. And we didn't see anything. We didn't see Francis Brunn, didn't see Kris Kremo, didn't see Bob Bramson, didn't see anything. Therefore we had rings, balls, clubs and just tried to throw more and more and more. It was a sport, really. And then we had good teachers and we had very good conditions at the circus school. They even had composers who composed for us music. And we had lessons with the ballett and the pantomime all together and therefore the sport became an art.

Tick: Other numbers jugglers like Albert Lucas or Anthony Gatto are still known as sports jugglers.

Sergei: No, now Anthony Gatto is not a sports juggler. He really changed! He has been a sports juggler many years ago and now he is becoming better and better. I had connections with him in Las Vegas - his sports, his techniques and his quality have become art. It is the same like a hundred-meter-run, this is not sports, this is art. If there is a very high quality, it is art and not sports.

Tick: Ziethen describes you as the poet of jugglers because you are famous for synchronising your juggling with the music.

Sergei: Yes, but now I changed music, because three years ago the American North Orchestra invited me to work three times with the orchestra behind me - and they gave me this music that you have seen. It's Khachaturian. Before it was Chopin. It is my other act. I really like this act, I worked with this music for fifteen years and now I need a little rest. But I will change again, I will come back to Chopin because this is my special thing.

Tick: You mentioned that you were working in Russia and that there was no contact with the rest of the world. Now you know all the western jugglers?

Sergei: Yes, they are all my friends. Gatto, Bob Bramson, Francis Brunn - we are always connected and I really like them.

Tick: How did your life change after the fall of the iron curtain?

Sergei: It changed a lot. But it was very good that I was a little bit late to see the West, because I already had developped my personality, I had already taken my way and I was interesting for the West. I was a surprise for them and they were a surprise for me. We all have a very special way.

Tick: What is most important for you in training? How did you reach your level?

Sergei: I do not think about the results. I work very hard every day, I practice ballett, I am doing body building and I stretch my body. And I never thought about a result. The result was born inside myself. The result comes from all together. My best form was in 1978: I have a video from this when I caught eleven rings on the head. But this is more then 20 years ago, 25 years!

Tick: Are you afraid of drops?

Sergei: I decided many years ago never to be afraid of drops. Because if a juggler is afraid of drops, he never grows in juggling. If you want to throw a lot of clubs or rings it is not possible without drops during the show. This is the way to high quality. If you are afraid of drops you stay on one level.

Tick: Do you still feel familiar with the traditional circus?

Sergei: It is always circus. Circus is life. This is the manege, a circle, and character and personality in the manege, this is circus. This is always new, it always changes, it is all circus. There is no old or new circus (for me). This is life. It is always new.

Tick: In Europe or in the US people begin to juggle as a hobby and are interested in circus arts. There are new ways of creating circus, that did not start in traditional circus schools.

Sergei: Well, every juggler tries to show his life through juggling. It is very easy, you take three balls or even three apples and you start juggling. And therefore in juggling there are lots of ways of juggling. This is philosophy. And this philosophy we see every year at the Cirque de Demain in Paris. And every year there are new jugglers and new ways!
But Francis Brunn, Bob Bramson, Anthony Gatto - they are alone on top. This is the mountain - and they are the high level.

Tick: Does juggling in Russia mean "Circus school and nothing else"?

Sergei: There are lots of problems in our country now. But the life moves in front, the situation is changing in my country and in future. Now it is very hard. Life is not like before, everybody tries to begin a new life. And we must wait. It is a big and great country, I think it will be good. And now in juggling-life in Moscow ... who is the new generation? ... Anthony Gatto! But in Russia? I don't know.

Tick: How much time do you spend abroad?

Sergei: I don't know. All my life. I do not have plans for the future. Everything can change within one second, one minute. It always changes. This is my life. And I like change, because if you don't change and stay, you die. Always change, always change, always change, improvisation always, other countries, other people, other museums, other pictures, other nature. I really like changes.

Tick: Do you think juggling is a constant attempt to control something or is it more to be free in your mind?

Sergei: This is a very big problem in juggling. Because you have to have concentration and relaxation. In life, this is not possible. Because if you concentrate you are tense and if you are relaxed, you are without control. And you must do it at the same time in juggling. Concentration, 100 percent attention and relaxation at the same time. It is very hard. The highest level of juggling is, if a juggler does the same thing on stage as in his practice. This is really high-level-juggling. Some jugglers have a high level in training and show a lower one on stage. But the high level is to show the same. I did this when I was 29 years old. This is high quality.

Tick: You work with yoga, too.

Sergei: Yes, this is relaxation and straightness at the same time. And it is important to have a straight body. Because juggling - what is it? You have to feel your left hand and your right hand on the same level. And then one of the most important things is the physic rhythm. If one hand works 50 percent less than the other one, you don't catch the rhythm. If you can take the rhythm you can do what you want. This is: rhythm, straight body, the strength of your muscles, and reaction right and left, rhythm right and left. You have to stay on your feet - straight! - and then: rhythm, rhythm, rhythm.
And rhythm can break all: If soldiers cross a bridge they don't go all together because if they do so they will break the bridge whith their rhythm. And rhythm is the thing a juggler always must have. In his life and in his practice. And then he will have results in future. You must catch rhythm, jugglers. Rhythm, this is to practice, then relax, and then rest and then practice, then relax and rest, then practice. Jugglers must wait a long time. Because their best form is just a very short time. The best form - and suddenly you fall. And then again you start. Next step. And then to a better form.

Tick: Have you ever taught juggling?

Sergei: Yes, I often give workshops. For instance in America or in London. Usually I practice with ten, fifteen people ten days. First I see who is who, then I try to take one level with everybody and then I organise everybody, then we take together rhythm and then we fly. And when we finish, everybody cries.

Tick: Sounds good, when is the next workshop?

Sergei: I don't know, last one was in London. I think this could be the future in my next life because it is interesting for me to work with people and I am interesting for them.

Tick: What about copying in juggling?

Sergei: Nobody can take away something from another one. He can only learn from him. But what he does must come from himself. And then again it is something new. There are no two people in the world who are the same. And juggling is one way to express this. And everybody understands juggling through himself. Everybody who is around a juggler can be a help, but he will take from another one the best that he needs for himself.

Tick: What is your favourite object?

Sergei: Parents love children who think a lot, who are sick and who cause a lot of pain for the parents. They love them. And for me a big problem are the balls. I love balls. It's crazy, these big balls. Nobody takes these seven balls from a hand-start, and I did also a pirouette on one place. Now I let it down. But this is very big nervous with these balls and very hard with them. It is the same like a very crazy woman: This is balls (for me). I don't know what will happen after two seconds. Tomorrow it is something else. And therefore I like these balls.

Tick: People always expect a certain routine. Are you free to try something completely new?

Sergei: I think this is too late. But I don't know what God gives to us. Now I won't take my best form again. But every year I feel another imagination about juggling. It always changes. And therefore I work more. And when I understand that something is for me not interesting, I have a new way and I stop. But I always feel I must do something.

(Deutsche Übersetzung/German translation)

This interview and additional information from our German page (translated into English) has been reprinted in the article section of the Internet Juggling Database (IJDb). The reprint is to be found here.