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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Sun man joins Moscow State Circus


Sep 4 2011

by Michael Brown, Sunday Sun


IT'S the last day in town for the Moscow State Circus. Michael Brown takes to the high wire to see what all the fuss is aboutPOISE, grace and balance. Three things every tightrope walker needs and three things I’m pretty sure I’ve never been accused of possessing.
But with the Moscow State Circus in Newcastle I was packed off for the top of the big top experience.
Strung nine metres above the ring the high wire is home to one of the show’s more spectacular feats. Sitting ringside as experts Alikhan Alikahnov and his troop show off their top trick – a woman stands on the heads of two men and performs the splits, more than 30ft in the air – I suddenly began to wonder if I should really be entering into the domain of professionals who spent the best parts of their lives with their head in the clouds.
But, with the experts finished, I was swiftly strapped into a harness and rather unceremoniously hoisted skyward by a mechanical winch.
A lot closer to the powerful lights the air, despite the grey day outside, was warm like a holiday night, but it barely registered as a combination of fear and concentration took hold. Stepping onto the taut, inch-wide metal wire it was far too late to go back and tell my editor I’m actually afraid of heights.
Following the instruction I’d been given I clutched the harness wire with one hand, reached my other arm out in a seemingly vain attempt to stay upright and inched towards the nearest end of the tightrope.
Reaching the solid, wide refuge I turned and realised the scale of the task ahead. Forty foot away Alikhan beckoned, telling me to not look down.
After rejecting the offer of a pole held up from the ground to make it easier - if I was going to do it I was going to do it properly - I set out, one foot in front of the other, feeling for the tightrope before willing my weight forward.
Progress was slow, but the further I went, the more my confidence grew and the wobbles reduced. It might even have been enjoyable, had my adrenaline-fuelled heart not maintained its attempt to beat its way out of my chest.
Stepping onto the small platform at the end was a mix of relief and elation and, if given the chance, I would probably have turned around tried to walk back. But at the end of the day I was happy to return to the ground, with a renewed respect for the skills of performers who make the spectacular seem effortless.

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