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Russian Barre

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The Rodion Troup

Russian Barre

They twirl, flip and somersault on a sliver of a beam.

Watching the acrobats perform on the Russian barre is a little like watching a miracle. We want to rub our eyes and see it again, sure this time we'll spot the trick, the rubber bands that must tether the acrobats to the impossibly slim beam. But the Russian barre is neither miracle nor sleight of hand; it's a physical performance of pure athletic precision.

Traditionally, two porters hold a 13-foot long and six-inch wide balance beam between them at shoulder height. The flyer mounts the beam in an elegant seated position, her toes pointed. The porters heave the bar up, and the flyer nearly floats to her feet on top of the thin bar. She bends her knees to gain momentum from the pliable beam and flies up into the air, tucking her chin toward the center of her body, her legs scissor-straight. She rotates once, twice, in the air and comes back to land on the beam in nearly the same spot from where she stood only seconds before. It's as elegant as any ballet performance.

This season, Big Apple Circus Founder Paul Binder features the Rodion Trio, an act he's wanted to acquire since he saw them perform in Europe years before. "(The Rodion Trio) connects beautifully with the audience," says Binder. "(Anna, the flyer,) is extraordinary; one in a million. She has a sixth sense and she moves through the air making tricks like a triple and a double somersault with a twist, as if she's found rails in the air on which to ride," he says.