Svetlana Perekhodova was born near the Black Sea area of Russia.  At age five, Svetlana bounced and danced around her house in hopes of one day becoming a prima ballerina.  Unfortunately, she grew up in a depressed part of Russia that didn’t offer any ballet schools. 

Fatefully, her family moved to the Ukraine when she was nine.  There were still no ballet schools, but there was a circus school for children – the Circus Amateur School Studio Academy.   Graced with an astonishingly flexible body, Svetlana spent the next six years twisting and bending at the Circus Academy, marking her very first performances as an entertainer. 

At age 15, Svetlana attended the Kiev State School of Circus Arts.  Two years later, she met the legendary performer Yevgeniy Voronin, an event which would change her life – personally and professionally – forever. 

Yevgeniy Voronin was an internationally renowned magician who had formed his own theatre company, the Theatre of Caliostro.  His “Magic Theatre” soon became famous for conjuring visual illusions that fused dance and the circus arts in scenarios that often carried a mythical and sensual charge.  Voronin was in search of a new female performer who could compliment his company’s uniquely mysterious persona – and Svetlana’s striking beauty and contortionist skills made her a perfect match.  She was only 17. 

Svetlana continued her studies at the School of Circus Arts while working at Voronin’s “Magic Theatre” – and not always as a performer.  She also toiled as a dishwasher, waitress, cigarette girl, bartender and maitre ‘d – paying her dues as a student of theatre, circus, cabaret and life.

At the age of 19, Svetlana graduated with a Circus Performer Diploma and certification as a teacher of the Circus Arts.  It was a good memory for Svetlana.  She met scores of interesting people and experienced much while living on her own and dividing her time between work, friends, life, and the craziness of her business.

Now graduated from school and her own person, the Theatre of Caliostro sent Svetlana to the United States to perform with Maestro Voronin, an American magician.   After ten months, however, she grew homesick for her native Russia and returned.  Working personally with Voronin again, she created one of her most original and breathtaking acts, the Human Candle. 

Draped in sheer white gossamer and lighted by a solitary flame at her head, Svetlana performs a sensuous ballet that is a marvel of imagination.  Contorting her long, lithe body in elegant twists and turns that should be humanly impossible, Svetlana’s movements narrate the dreamlike story of a live candle, a dark and erotic metaphor for a woman’s life being burned.   Her performance is a heartbreaking poem about desire and vulnerability. 

(CLICK HERE TO See Svetlana’s Human Candle performance)

Svetlana’s years in Kiev at the Theatre of Caliostro were a happy and creative time of her life.  She met and performed for painters, artists, choreographers, directors and many other famous and interesting people.

About this time, Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas and touring shows were hitting their stride in terms of fame and popularity, changing the world’s perceptions about circus.  For years known by its iconic tent, ringmaster, and lions in cages, the entertainment known as “circus” became redefined by Cirque du Soleil as something more sophisticated – witnessed through its emphasis on dancers, mimes, acrobats, aerialists, contortionists and provocative music.   Suddenly, the circus was less about sensational tricks and more about compelling stories and characters.  The circus had become art. 

Svetlana’s timing was perfect.  Her mime, dance and contortionist gifts helped catapult her to fame and popularity in a world hungry for new and provocative circus entertainers.  She has spent the last several years performing around the world – America, Europe, South America, Asia – not as a tourist, but as a hardworking professional.  The Human Candle was her primary act, but she also created a variety of new and challenging stories and characters to perform. 

In 1998, Svetlana’s life took a profoundly dramatic turn when she and Voronin (whom she had since married) became original cast members of the American cabaret phenomenon, Teatro Zinzanni in Seattle.  Described as Moulin Rouge meets Cirque du Soleil, Teatro Zinzanni is a blend of European cabaret, circus, arts, restaurant, and vaudeville performed in a Belgian “spiegeltent” (a mirrored “jewel box of a tent) with permanent shows now in San Francisco and Seattle.

At first, Svetlana imported her Human Candle act for American audiences, but soon felt compelled to create something new and different – which led to “Angela,” her puppet-doll character.  As Svetlana describes it:

“Teatro Zinzanni is unique because you work close with the audience – you interact with people at their tables and touch them on the inside, not just the outside.   That kind of intimacy brings the audience into the show – and you’re not hiding behind make-up and props like you do in Cirque du Soleil."

“In the world of Zinzanni, you need to create a whole character with a philosophy.  Your character needs to be intriguing and complex enough to take an audience through a three-and-a-half hour show.   This is different from the simpler characters you create for ordinary cabaret.  So I wanted to create something new for Teatro Zinzanni, something different from the Candle that would take the classical mime/character doll to another level."

“In circus and normal cabaret, your character is usually trick-trick-trick.  But with the doll character, it’s about creating a believable world – which involves more acting and creativity.  The emphasis is on your performance, not the physical tricks.  ‘Angela’ is interesting because she’s a modern creation and not from another age.  She belongs to Voronin’s Maestro character and is operated by his remote control – and you sense she’s coming from a much darker world than usual.”

Today, Svetlana remains as dedicated a performer as she is popular.  The physical rigors of her career force her to always be in shape – emotionally and physically.  Like athletes who must perpetually work to keep their bodies at peak performance, Svetlana has a daily conditioning routine to maintain her body’s strength and flexibility.

Svetlana feels blessed that her career has allowed her to travel the globe while presenting her art.   She has met fascinating people from all corners of the world – a life she never could have dreamt possible, having grown up in Communist Russia when the Wall was still standing and world travel was virtually forbidden.  

Svetlana is currently on tour with her husband, Voronin, in Europe.  They will return to the San Francisco Teatro Zinzanni show in the Spring of ’08.