The Panteleenko Brothers

The discipline of aerial straps was originally a Chinese specialty where athletes would perform intensely muscular tricks up and down the straps. Many of the moves are similar to those of the Aerial Rings. The pioneers of contemporary aerial straps were identical twins Yuri and Valery Panteleenko, known as the Panteleenko Brothers.

The brothers started their performance careers as part of a Russian illusionist’s magic show. During a show in Rostov-On-Don in 1969, Vladivien Levshin, the Rubanov Company’s acrobatic coach saw their athleticism and potential and began training them to perform what was to become a milestone act in the history of this apparatus. Previously, a straps routine would be performed from a static position, only moving up and down the straps. Levshin introduced swinging, circular, and two-person moves. These new elements, not to mention the brothers’ elegance and resemblance added a new level of grace and beauty to the balletic nature of the apparatus. In 1972 the brothers debuted the act; by 1973 they had already won the U.S.S.R.’s All-Union Circus Competition, at that time considered to be the world’s most difficult circus competition. They subsequently began touring with the Moscow State Circus.

In 1983 the brothers performed at the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo but were largely ignored by the judges, receiving only the City of Monaco prize. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the Panteleenko brothers’ style of performance gained wider acceptance. Today nearly all straps routines bear the mark of their original routine.

In 1989 Yuri died of a heart attack after a show. Despite this tragic loss, Valerie decided to continue on the Panteleenko Brothers act, taking on Igor Gruzen as Yuri’s replacement. They performed until 1995 when Valerie retired from performing at the age of 50 to become Head Rigger for Barnum's Kaleidoscape, eventually retiring to Florida. Valerie died of cancer in January 2006 but was succeeded by his son Maxime, who is still performing.

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