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Anatoliy Zalevsky, 25, performs breath-taking stunts. One of his stunts is to appear flying. And it does look like he is flying. He has won the gold medal at the Circus of the Future Festival in Paris, the Golden Clown at a contest in Monte Carlo and after I, Yevhen Budko, a Welcome to Ukraine journalist, watched his new show, Rhizome, in June I decided I simply must talk to him. When I was preparing for this interview, I did not think I would discuss some lofty matters and philosophical issues with him. But he turned out to be a man of many facets, a true artist rather than just an athletic and temperamental stuntman.

Anatoliy Zalevsky did not mention out of modesty that he had already received invitations to bring his show to Berlin, Monte Carlo, Paris.
One of his appearances is planned for a show which will include such stars as Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Sting, Elton John. Good luck, Anatoliy!

WU: Anatoliy, watching your show I realized that you combine the skills of an athlete, a ballet dancer and a circus man. Has it always been so?
Zalevsky: Not really. I began with just stunts, trying to make them as impressive and as difficult as I could. But now I perform stunts in order to try to express something deeper than mere daring, to create an image. To stage a really big show.
WU: Do you have a director who stages your shows? A choreographer who devises your dancing? Do you have a musician who arranges and chooses music for you?
Zalevsky: Iím all of them rolled into one. I had good teachers, Iíve learnt a lot, I know where to seek inspiration. Iíve managed to find my style, I know what kind of image I want to create.
WU: When you perform who do you have in mind more - an elite audience or men in the street?
Zalevsky: Lately, have in mind men in the street, as youíve put it. I want to show people that they can do wonders if they try hard enough. Maybe itíll help them in life. I want to help them realize that they can achieve a lot if they set themselves a goal.
WU: Your shows can hardly be called just circus stunts. Thereís so much to them. Have you found your definition for them?
Zalevsky: Not really. But if people enjoy what they see, does it matter how to call it?
WU: Do you give yourself breaks, like, say, going to the beach and relaxing there for a day?
Zalevsky: Of course. Besides, a day of relaxation makes me aggressively creative. Iím full of energy, I have to do something, I have to make a further step in my development. Sometimes, I listen to music to get the right kind of inspiration.
WU: I know that in Monte Carlo in addition to the Grand Prix you were awarded a special prize for the best music accompaniment used in a show. What kind of music do you like best?
Zalevsky: Oh, all kinds, from pop to classical. Thereís no such thing as bad music for me.
WU: But do you differentiate between a well performed and badly performed piece of music?
Zalevsky: Of course I do! Usually I look for something unusual, in the musical sense, something psychedelic.
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WU: Could you say a few words about your educational background?
Zalevsky: I grew up in the town of Berdychiv, I attended a specialized circus school, then went into sports: wrestling, soccer, swimming. After my eighth year in high school I went to Kyiv and tried my luck at a big circus school there. But at my first attempt to get myself enrolled I was rejected. Which was to a certain extent good because I realized I had to try harder. And I did and was enrolled. When I was a fourth-year student I went into dancing and danced with a dance company, a well-known one, run by Boris Moiseyev.
WU: He is rumoured to be gay.
Zalevsky: So what? If he is, thatís his own business and nobody elseís. I think he is a man of genius. He is a great choreographer and he can make the dancers do what he wants them to do, create the image he wants them to create.
80.jpg (99277 bytes) WU: Are there any other people you would like to express your gratitude to for helping you on with your career?
Zalevsky: Ahead of anybody else Iím grateful to my parents for being so helpful and understanding. Then to my teachers, to my manager, to the Nova Agency.
WU: Were there people who hindered your progress in some way?
Zalevsky: There was no one who really tried to stand in my way but there were some of those who by being reluctant to cooperate let me know I was going the wrong way. Iím grateful to them as well for helping me find the right way.
WU: Who suggested you go into circus? Your parents?
Zalevsky: No, theyíre engineers and have nothing to do with circus. I just had too much energy, destructive energy even. It had to be channelled into something, and a circus school seemed to be the best choice. Sometimes people think that circus is just clowns, tamed animals and silly stunts. The circus of today differs a lot from what it used to be. Unfortunately, in Ukraine circus has become stalled in its development. And in the west it has progressed from being just stunts and clowns to something which is very close to theatre. Yes, the clowns are still there, but they are integral part of the show, the show that teaches you something, that makes you think.
WU: Though you are much ahead of the general state of things in the Ukrainian circus, you have stayed in Ukraine.
Zalevsky: And why should I go abroad? I belong to Ukraine. We can be living through hard times now but I belong to the generation of young people who do believe in the better future for their country. We are trying to change things and we will change them. No matter what my occupation might have been, Iíd work hard to bring about a better future. I feel the mankind is at the threshold of something new, a new type of man is soon to come into the world. This coming millennium will bring with it so much new, I know it will.
WU: And I heard an opinion expressed by many that the arts seem to be in stagnation, nothing truly new appears in music, literature, television. You donít share this opinion, do you?
Zalevsky: Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that thereís still a lot of what might be called obsolete and outdated, but on the other hand, I know thereís so much new that is just waiting to be born and developed.
WU: Youíve been called in the press ďa kind of a geniusĒ, ďthe one who opens new ways.Ē How do you react to such praise?
Zalevsky: Iíve never thought of myself in these terms and what other people call me - let them. Sometimes, itís just a publicity stunt. To be truly a genius one has to devote oneself totally to what oneís doing, to be able to see oneself in the process of development, to look into the future.
The desire to achieve should be greater than all oneís other emotions. There must be no room for weakness, there must only be one passion. A great will power to overcome any difficulties. I think there are no limits for achievement, either physical or spiritual.
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WU: You have travelled a lot, youíve taken your show to many places. Do you go on tours with your shows because you want to assert yourself? Because of vanity or of fame?
Zalevsky: Donít quite know what to say. Iíve always wanted to travel, to win at contests. Recognition makes you stronger, more assured of yourself. And my success is a good example for young boys to follow.
81.jpg (98450 bytes) WU: Are there any favourite places that you like to go to?
Zalevsky: I love it everywhere I go. I performed to different audiences in Italy, Holland, France, England, and, of course, in Ukraine. In provincial places the audiences are usually much warmer. In more sophisticated places I seem to read whatís on their minds: Come on, boy, show us whether you can really do all those stunts, surprise us.
WU: Any plans for the future?
Zalevsky: I have a lot of plans but Iíd rather not speak about them. I want to achieveÖ no, I wonít tell you. Not yet. But I want to show people I can fly.
WU: David Copperfield style?
Zalevsky: No, Anatoliy Zalevsky style.
WU: All right, if you donít want to talk about long-term plans, what are your short-term plans?
Zalevsky: To keep improving my Rhizome* show. In addition to myself, we have an excellent performer, Natalya Vasylenko, ďa girl without bonesĒ as we call her, and a ballet group made up of eight dancers. My show is called Rhizome for a reason.
I like the sound of this word and its symbolism ó constant movement, constant change, constant improvement, capability to produce something entirely new. Hope this September weíll be able to present an improved version of our show to the public. First in Kyiv, and then hopefully abroad, in Europe and America.

*Rhizome - in botany, horizontal, underground plant stem capable of producing the shoot and root systems of a new plant. This capability allows the parent plant to propagate vegetatively. In some plants (e.g., water lilies, many ferns and forest herbs), the rhizome is the only stem of the plant.
In such cases, only the leaves and flowers are readily visible.

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