Balancing Act: 5 Questions With Great Moscow Circus Rolla Bolla Performer Sascha Williams

Catch the circus artists rolling into action in Singapore from 25 October.

Photos: The Great Moscow Circus

Have you noticed the gigantic red and white tent next to Marina Bay Sands? That’s the home of The Great Moscow Circus, here in town to dazzle us with death-defying stunts!

From 25 October to 23 November, the world-famous circus company returns to Singapore for the first time after over 10 years. It’s The Great Moscow Circus like you’ve never seen them before, led by more than 45 talented circus artists, performing more than 16 astounding acts. Hailing from Russia and top circus capitals of the world, the circus artists are ready to entertain you and your family all night.

Visitors can look forward to thrilling acts such as the Catwall, aerial acrobatics, the Wheel of Death and the Motorbike Sphere of Fear. One thing you won’t be seeing – to great joy – is any animal forced to perform. The circus will have no animal acts, making sure that everyone has a happy experience! We love a company that protects animal rights.

But before you step in for a wild night, be sure to snap a photo with The Great Moscow Circus Big Top! That’s the big red and white tent, but it’s no ordinary circus tent. An estimate of a whopping US$1 million went into creating the tent! It was specially designed for the Singapore season, too, by leading Italian tent makers, and took several months to build. At 17 metres high, and 40 metres wide, it’s a massive wonder to behold.

Aerial view of the Big Top tent

A highlight of the show is the amazing Rolla Bolla performance by Sascha Williams. The young man wowed us on this year’s Britain’s Got Talent, where he was a semi-finalist for his death-defying Rolla Bolla acts – using just a flat board to balance on lots of cylinders and tubes, while still performing ridiculous stunts like handstands or juggling.

We chat with Williams about the circus tradition in his family, and what goes on in his head when he’s up there balancing for his dear life.

Hi Sascha! You’ve been doing Rolla Bolla for 17 years now – why Rolla Bolla, out of all the different circus acts? What do you love about it?

I grew up in a circus family, my father was an acrobat and magician and my mother was a contortionist and aerialist. On my mother’s side, I am 16 th generation European circus performer so it’s definitely in my blood.

Growing up around the circus from an early age, I was really keen to perform in the circus ring as soon as I could. My parents wanted me to start with an act that was relatively safe – I was good at juggling – then I began practicing balancing and found that I was really good at it. From basic balancing tricks, I quickly started to try out more complex and daredevil tricks, and Rolla Bolla was a natural progression.

I love the exhilaration I get from performing dangerous tricks in front of a live audience. It’s the adrenaline rush while you’re waiting backstage to go on – you can hear and feel an excitement and anticipation from the audience. When you get out into the circus ring and start your act and the audience really gets into it, the audience reaction really becomes part of your performance.

How do you try to shake up your performances, and keep things fresh and new for audiences?

I always try to tailor my performance to the country I am performing in and the audiences I perform to. I am always trying out new tricks in rehearsals, different music and costumes to keep developing my Rolla Bolla act.

A lot can go wrong with Rolla Bolla. Spontaneity plays a big part of the act – every single performance has a freshness and newness about it. I always have to be on my toes (literally!) but it’s the danger and spontaneity that keep the audience engaged and entertained.

What goes on in your head when you’re up there, trying to keep your balance on cylinders and tubes in front of a large crowd?

I try to keep my mind calm and focused. My main focus is directed to each element of my act and on performing an engaging and entertaining Rolla Bolla act for the audience.

I love performing in front of large crowds and that’s definitely one of the reasons why I love performing in general. Performing these dangerous acts in front of a large audience gives me an adrenal rush that helps me create a high energy performance.

But most of all, I try to keep my head clear and to not fall – which has certainly happened on more than one occasion. I have had bruises, broken bones and scars from where I have fallen on to the sharp metal props used in my act. Of course, my challenge is not to fall and I get an enormous exhilaration in a perfect performance.

You’ve been touring the world with The Great Moscow Circus since 2002. What do you love about the company and performing for audiences all around the world?

The Great Moscow Circus has an amazing reputation as the greatest Russian circus and has always have high quality of circus performers. It is amazing to be part of the tradition. My Russian friends work at teaching me their language, but I think I’m better at the Rolla Bolla than at languages.

This circus is all about entertaining audiences whether it be through the funny clowns who are actually always very skilled in lots of circus genres, the precision of the acrobats or the fearlessness of the daredevil performers (some acts even I find hard to watch because they are so scary! Some of my friends in the show can’t watch my act as they say it makes them scared!).

Photo: Radio Times

How has your experience on Britain’s Got Talent affected your performance style and skills?

Britain’s Got Talent is a highlight of my circus life, an appearance I’ll never forget. I am a big fan of the show and have watched it for years. To be able to appear on the stage in front of a worldwide audience was a dream come true.

Britain’s Got Talent taught me that there are no second chances. You’re in the wings, you present your act, you receive an incredible audience response and you get judged right there. Miss a trick and you may not get a second appearance. The judges were also brutally honest, but I felt that the pressure of that show was good. It taught me that you get one change in life so make it the best you’ve got! I now apply the same principal at every show – No second best efforts for me!

Get your tickets to The Great Moscow Circus in Singapore here

10 Bayfront Avenue, Beside Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 018956

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