Builders in their own right, Alex and Irina Emelin have spent years constructing never-before-seen acts full of comedy, animals, magic and dynamic athleticism. Dubbed as the official project managers of Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ® Presents BUILT TO AMAZE!SM, Alex and Irina assist the Ringmaster in getting The Greatest Show On Earth® built for audiences across the US.
Alex was born in Moscow to a working-class family. His uncle was a circus clown, and when Alex watched his uncle perform, he was moved. "He looked so nice and had so many stories about the circus; he had seen so many things. My eyes were opened to the possibility of opportunity," Alex explained.
Soon after, Alex traveled to the Ukraine to attend an elite professional circus school, where the course work was challenging and the students competitive. He excelled and was soon invited to join the Nikulin Circus, where he impressed the director and was immediately brought on as an artist.
Irina and her brother, originally from Moscow, are second generation circus performers, who grew up under the tutelage of their famous animal-trainer father. "By the time I was a young girl, I had my own monkey act," Irina reflected. On touring she admits, "I can't stay in one place for long; I think there's a nomadic animal in my blood."
Alex and Irina met while performing in circus shows. She was presenting her monkey act and Alex was a clown. For several years, the pair toured with the Bolshevik State Circus and Hungary State Circus. Alex decided he wanted to leave the circus to focus on building and strengthening his magical comedy act, and he needed an assistant. The pair grew close. "One day I saw Irina as more than my partner and my best friend ― I was in love." Alex and Irina haven't been apart since, and that was fifteen years ago.
Alex was confident his magical comedy act was as perfect as it could be. And the pair was recognized by fans and peers with various awards and accolades. Even with this success, Alex and Irina still returned to Russia to assemble a new animal act. They spent several years training large and small poodle puppies. Once the act was constructed, they, along with their extended family, spent several years working with the Moscow State Circus. During this time, Alex, who understood the importance of building and acquiring new skills, studied at the Russian Academy of Arts. He ended up graduating with a degree in Circus Production.
With a foundation of skills under her, Irina felt ready to truly commit to developing to her comedic character, whose style comes from Chinese circus clowns. Alex was ready too, "I'm the teacher, and she is the student. She was ready to learn." Irina continued to build confidence and skills. It was then that Alex, who considers himself the architect of their act, felt that all the pieces fit together. "We were real and authentic; everything felt natural," he said. The pair decided to take their new act out on tour.
Their first time in America, Alex and Irina, along with their daughters, thirteen-year-old Alexandra and three-year-old Valentina, now travel across the United States in their new house trailer. "We have so much room and I have big kitchen. We love to cook, it's our hobby; we cook together and eat very healthy. It's all fresh and homemade; no fast food at all," says Irina. "Food is family time. That's when we talk about the day and when we get to spend time together," adds Alex. And if it's a warm evening, Alex is manning his grill. "There's nothing I love more!" As for Irina, she can't wait to see Hollywood, Las Vegas, Broadway, and of course, a little shopping, too.
In addition to their love for travel and performance, they are crazy for American culture. "America is a great machine of shows and production. We've watched thousands movies." In fact, they love American movies so much, they named all of their dogs after famous actors.
Extraordinarily happy to be invited to Ringling Bros.®, Alex and Irina couldn't be more proud of their accomplishments. "We are finally here and we are strong. We have created a stable groundwork; we built these acts, piece by piece. It's the foundation of who we are. We've worked our whole lives for this," says Alex.