Christian Stoinev is a 22-year-old recent Illinois State graduate. But his post-graduation job varies slightly from his degree in broadcast journalism — Stoinev is a professional hand-balancer.
Stoinev, who grew up in New York, moved this summer to Sarasota to perform a seven-week gig as part of The Ringling and The Circus Arts Conservatory’s Summer Circus Spectacular. On June 17, his talent was recognized nationally when he competed on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and moved on to the second round (the episode will air later this summer).
His act combines balance and strength. For instance, as his body is inverted feet over head, he jumps from one hand atop an extended stilt to the other. At the same time, his 11-year-old Chihuahua, Scooby, climbs up his body and balances at the highest point on top of his feet. He and his dog (and other two dogs that travel with him) will settle in Sarasota post Summer Circus Spectacular.
Diversions sat down with the new Sarasotan to tell us a little more about his history. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about your circus heritage and your own history:
I’m a fifth-generation performer on my mom’s side. My grandpa and two uncles owned the oldest-living circus in Mexico, Circo Atayde Hermanos, since 1888. My grandpa on my dad’s side used to work for circuses but wasn’t a performer. My dad became the first-generation performer on that side.
I started performing at age 5. My dad balanced on a ladder and me on his shoulders or head. I started doing hand balancing when I was 10.
Tell us about ‘America’s Got Talent.’ What was it like?
It was kind of nerve-wracking. I had a suit jacket on, and when I took it off, the whole place erupted. After that, the nerves went away and I was just playing with the audience. It was just fun.
The first thing you did on TV was balance on one finger on a champagne bottle. Did you pick that up in college? If not, when did you start doing that? I also do that in my Summer Circus Spectacular. I started practicing it in high school. Sometimes, I’ll do it on candleholders.
And Scooby didn’t come with you (to the show). Why didn’t you bring him?
The way I looked at it was if I make it through by myself, then maybe I’ll have an advantage later on if I add Scooby.
Tell us about Scooby — did you train him?
My dad and I trained him. When he was a baby, we got him as a pet. I would watch TV and he’d lie on my stomach, and then if I’d roll the other direction, he’d walk on me to the other side (like in our routine). Most of it he just picked up on his own. To him, it’s a game. But we trained him and made sure we weren’t risking him.
I actually have two others: Prince and Percy. Percy will make his debut in the Summer Circus Spectacular. Prince is a little chubby and lazy (he’s in my brother’s juggling act.)
If you make it on to the second round and then the voting round to win $1 million and win it, what’s the first thing you’ll do with the money?
If I don’t already have it, I’m not going to think about it. So, I haven’t thought about it. I don’t like to count on something that isn’t mine.
IF YOU GO
Summer Circus Spectacular
When: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays. Runs through Aug. 2.
Where: The Ringling’s Historic Asolo Theater, 5401 Bay Shore Road
Cost: Tickets $15
Info: Call 359-5700 or visit ringling.org.