“Circus Cities” is a new CircusTalk Original Video Series by “Think Like an Acrobat” host Shenea Stiletto. In each episode, Shenea will explore a city with a vibrant circus community by sitting down with artists and service providers who reside there. The conversations will range from basics to specifics, from job opportunities and training space to living opportunities and conditions, including visas and work permits. This series is designed to equip you with everything you need to know about these cities, so you can see what’s out there and feel confident in your decision to permanently or temporarily relocate…or not! The first four episodes will cover Las Vegas, Montreal, Berlin, and Dubai. What other cities do you want to see on the list?
This episode: Las Vegas! Meet the guests of this premiere episode:
Johanna Sapakie is an accomplished Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Performer. Most recently, Johanna has been involved in many projects on stage and on camera, including the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show, Hustlers and Medicine with JLo, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE and Viva ELVIS, Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, Shiners Nashville, the Arabesque Festival at the Kennedy Center, Songs of Soul and Inspiration with Debbie Allen, the re-release of Michael Jackson’s “Blood on the Dance Floor” music video, Miley Cyrus: Live in Concert World Tour, Madonna: The Confessions Tour and Madonna: The Reinvention Tour. Johanna is also an accomplished aerial acrobat and performs on many different apparatus, including tissú, lyra, spans, hammock, acro pole, and cube. She has just recently completed the creation of a new show for Franco Dragone entitled “Splendor.” Johanna also proudly teaches master classes and workshops around the world in pole, aerial acrobatics, and dance.
Alanna Bélanger, originally from the UK, has resided in Las Vegas since March 2020. She was a gymnast from the young age of five all the way until the age of 18. She competed for her country, Great Britain, in Sports Acrobatics gymnastics. She became the European champion in 2011 and 3rd in the world in 2012. She then went on to join Cirque du Soleil in October 2012. In January 2013, Alanna then joined the touring show OVO, and toured with them worldwide up until the pandemic hit. After the pandemic, she joined the iconic O by Cirque du Soleil, for one year, on call. Alanna is now currently part of “Absinthe” by Spiegelworld and has been since November last year. She also has a few businesses with her husband Philippe Belanger. Together, they own ‘Maison B and B,’ a garment printing company created during the pandemic; ‘Studio 14’ a photography and videography studio, which they rent out per hour; and finally, ‘Design KontroL,’ which her husband has co-owned with his working partner since 2015.
Araz Hamzayev is a solo contortion artist. As a second-generation circus artist originally from Azerbaijan, he has been performing for audiences since he was nine years old. Araz traveled all around the world showcasing his talent before coming to the US and joining Cirque du Soleil in 2013.
Fernando Miro is originally from Puerto Rico. He was a gymnast first, then became a professional dancer which launched his career at the young age of 16. He later found his passion in circus as an aerialist and pole dancer. He has toured the world four times with renowned artists Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and has performed in four different Cirque du Soleil shows as a dancer, aerialist, and main character. Fernando has also performed in many award shows with other celebrities such as Christina Aguilera. He’s starred in an AT&T commercial and modeled for famous photographers like David LaChappelle. He currently lives in Vegas and plays “The Outlaw” character in the Atomic Saloon show by Spiegelworld.
Elena Nekrassova was born in Potsdam, Germany, and spent many years mastering her skills as a rhythmic gymnast in the Soviet Union. After finishing her sporting career, Elena graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Physical Culture at Minsk in 1990 and shortly after landed a choreographer position at Bolshoi St. Petersburg State Circus. She moved to Las Vegas in 1994, where she began her professional performing career as a gymnast and aerialist. Elena opened her own production company, NOVELTY Entertainment, in 2003 and has developed new props, acts, and entertainment programs for many events both nationally and internationally. It was a natural move to focus on directing, choreographing, producing, and currently creating entertainment events for corporate and casino programs.
Philippe Bélanger is a Canadian circus artist who began his circus career at L’école de Cirque de Québec in Quebec City. He has been performing as a unicycle duo with his partner Marie-Lee Guilbert for more than a decade and currently performs with Absinthe by Spiegelworld in Las Vegas. He and Marie-Lee also co-own a sports clothing line, ‘Design KontroL,’ and he and his wife, Alanna own ‘Maison B and B,’ and ‘Studio 14’ together as well.
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