Youthful Hobbies Meet Careers With Panache

The New York Times

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2000

YOUTHFUL HOBBIES MEET CAREERS WITH PANACHE

By CINDY MARVELL

When the creme de la creme of Brooklyns New Way Circus Center comes to the William Mount-Burke Theater at the Peddie School in Hightstown on Saturday, everything in sight will be rising — not to mention swooping, rolling, flying, and tumbling. This troupe of young professionals, known as the Russian American Kids Circus, makes spirits soar and crowds roar. The 2 p.m. performance, which closes this seasons Family Theater Series, will be followed by a 30-minute workshop for young audience members.

The circus performers themselves have some of the best in the business for coaches: veterans of Russias Moscow Circus. Alex Berenchtein, winner of four international circus competitions, presides daily over a bevy of dedicated pupils who balance circus with school. Mr. Berenchtein, co-founder, his wife, Regina, and Igor Loktev, head coach, grew up in Russia, where circus buildings and schools are more common and students devote their young lives to learning the ropes from masters of the craft.

For all my kids, its a good future,‘ Mr. Berenchtein said from the circuss headquarters at the old Kings Highway Jewish Center on Avenue P. It is also 100 percent the best hobby.

Most of his students show up with nothing more than a desire to learn; soon they are hanging from the trapeze and hurtling across the mats. Misha Turovskoy, at 4 the youngest performer, started circus school as an alternative to trumpet lessons, and 5-year-old Lezi Ptatish, alias Micky,‘ dons a mouse costume.

A team of talented 16-year-olds leads the cast. Andrew Vinokurov opens the show as a clown and deftly makes the transition from juggling to balancing on rolling globes to spinning plates and riding unicycles of various heights.


Tatyana Bass performs a solo hula hoop act. She and Slava Bokhman, an aerialist, have appeared twice on The Cosby Show.‘ Elaxanzra Betser specializes in diabolo, an hourglass-shaped spool that spins on a string.

Inna Kaushenskyay, 12, appears on MTVs Oddville‘ when not on stage. And 10-year-old Rebeka Lungin, the latest recruit, recently performed her trick bicycle act at Staten Island College.

Such stunts take years to perfect, and even the coaches need help. Olga Partigul, Ms. Berenchteins mother and a full-time hospital worker, plays a key role as the schools executive director.

Community support and sponsorship from the Fleet Bank helped the project get off the ground.

People like our artistic approach, and they like the results,‘ says Ms. Berenchtein, on her way to drop off one group of youngsters and pick up another, its music, art and sport.

RUSSIAN AMERICAN KIDS CIRCUS

William Mount-Burke Theater, South Main Street, Hightstown. Saturday, 2 p.m.

(609) 490-7550.