Roginsky gives Circus Smirkus a fresh perspective


Author: Ryan Whalen

Standing at center stage, Jessica “Jesso” Roginsky (first-year) takes a bow as the audience roars with approval. It is the end of yet another successful performance.

For the past three summers, Roginsky has traveled up and down the east coast as a regular act for Circus Smirkus, an international youth circus dedicated to developing the abilities of teenage performers. At the young age of 18, her trapeze, hand balancing and hula-hoop acts are already featured in front of hundreds of spectators.

With just three weeks of preparation, Roginsky and the rest of the Circus Smirkus performers create and refine their acts, costumes and overall theme of the circus. In the following seven weeks, they perform a total of 70 times. Years of intense training gave Roginsky the physical and mental stamina needed to overcome the rigorous performance schedule.

Although Roginsky is now an experenced aerialist, her beginnings are far more conventional. At age three, she began participating in the sport of gymnastics, eventually changing to rhythmic gymnastics, which has a greater focus on balance and flexibility. For the next 11 years, Roginsky honed her skills and climbed through the ranks of rhythmic gymnastics by practicing for three to four hours everyday, and even training on weekends.

The dedication she put into the sport culminated in her selection to three Junior Olympics. However, Roginsky suffered a string of injuries that forced her out of the sport.

After gymnastics, Roginsky was drawn to circus performing. When she was younger she attended a Barnum and Bailey circus production, and the skill and grace of the performer’s awed Roginsky. One aerialist in particular, Elena Gatilova, became the source of her inspiration and helped fuel her desire to pursue and succeed in circus.

“I fell in love with the circus from the first time I saw it,” Roginsky said. “But I was so involved with gymnastics I was not able to pursue my new passion.”

Roginsky’s transition from rhythmic gymnastics to circus was smooth due to the fact that there was a large focus on flexibility and balance in both gymnastics and circus. The primary difference was performing in front of large crowds of people. Regular crowds for a Circus Smirkus production were around 750 people.

“The first time I performed I was scared, the second time I was nervous and for the third and following performances I had a lot fun,” Roginsky said.

For most teenagers, spending the entire summer traveling throughout New England and New York with people they have never met would seem intimidating. But for Roginsky, she felt at home with the other teenage performers.

“It’s like a family, those are my brothers and sisters,” Roginsky said. “When we are all together there is never a time I am bored, we are all performers and we have an entire circus to play with.”

Although this past summer was the final time Roginsky was able to perform for Circus Smirkus because of the age restrictions they place on performers, she hopes to continue to travel and perform. In the mean time she decided to continue her education and attend college, which led her to Occidental.

One of the key factors in her decision to come to Occidental College was
the location and its proximity to to Los Angeles. By being so close to
one of the largest entertainment hubs in the country, Roginsky hopes to
find business connections that will allow her to find a career in
performing. Roginsky also chose Occidental for the kinesiology program. Kinesiology bares a significant relevance to her passion and will allow her to gain a greater understanding of the human body. However, she did express that there are difficulties in her pursuit of both academics and circus performance.

“The hardest thing for me is to completely motivate myself to do the best that I can in school and in performing because it is a challenge to fully concentrate on anything outside of my desire and passion for performing,” she said.

While Roginsky spends most of her time focusing on school work and practicing routines, she allows some flexibility in her schedule for other activities. Rogisnky spends her free time playing the piano, visiting museums and watching television and movies.

Though she enjoys taking time off from her studies and training, she still has only one goal in mind: to travel and perform throughout the world.

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