The greatest of ease

. August 10, 2012.

Showbiz is a full-time job. The acrobats in Cirque du Soleil, the legendary Montreal-based "contemporary circus" troupe, are fantastically well-trained and professional — they've been wowing audiences worldwide since the 1980's with their high-flying artistry rooted in street theater. And sometimes that street-level experience comes in handy, as Natalia Pestova can attest.

The Russian-born acrobat, who will appear with Cirque's Quidam show at Huntington Center, June 6th through 10th, has found herself showing her skills at unlikely times during her travels. "Sometimes when we cross a border," she remembers, "they [customs officials] want us to do some tricks." Laughing, she admits that her husband, Alexander Pestov, is more likely to oblige these requests than she is.

The circus is a family affair for Pestov and Pestova. Alexander came to the business first, in 1995, but Natalia, who was trained as a gymnast, traveled with him. "I was just a 'housewife,'" she says. But her strength and physical skill couldn't be kept secret from the Cirque coaches and directors. By 1999, she'd been invited to join the troupe, and now alongside Alexander in Quidam, the couple performs a piece called "Hand to Hand." Pestova can't quite put the essence of the act into English — "it's better to see it," she says — but like all Cirque productions, it's an impressive mix of spectacle and narrative.

A whole world

Family got Pestova into the circus, and became a big part of the experience, as she and Pestov have raised two children during their time with the group. The elder, Vladimir, spent a big part of his childhood as a member of Cirque's extended family. "It's like a world inside the world," Pestova says. "You have kitchens, schools, everything." It's a cosmopolitan world — Vladimir learned Russian, French and English as a child — and he got a taste of the circus life that's stuck with him to this day. Now 18, Vladimir is back in Russia attending college, but he still harbors some show business dreams. "He's still juggling," Pestova says, with a mix of amusement and pride. "He wants to continue with the circus. Maybe before long, he will."

Not every family could handle such a vivid, literally high-flying existence. For most of us, the day-to-day grind of work, laundry and school is circus enough. But for Pestov and Pestova, it's a world they've loved together and thrived in. When trying to describe the "Hand to Hand" act in the simplest terms, Pestova maybe inadvertently stumbled across a fine description of family — "I lift my husband," she says, haltingly. "And he lifts me."

Cirque Du Soleil's Quidam is at the
Huntington Center from June 6-10. For
tickets, call 1-800-745-3000, or visit $37-97.