I had the joy of asking the incredible Ukrainian contortionist Sofia Kostritskaya some questions about her journey as one of the best new contortionists. Sofia is an amazing contortionist and when she takes to the stage and performs and showcases her astounding skills, she leaves the audience in awe and mesmerised by what the human body can do. The joy she has on her face when performing is infectious and her smile brings happiness to many. Sofia has had the opportunity to compete in many competitions in and around Ukraine and had the chance to appear on some TV shows showcasing her incredible talent. Below are her responses.
Sofia’s responses translated using Google Translate
How long have you done contortion for?
I have been engaged in contortion since the age of 4
How did you start contortion?
I started practicing myself, then my mother opened a studio, a school since we did not have any gymnastics sections in the city and now I am training with my mother
How often do you train and for how long?
In the training hall I train three times a week, the rest of the time is home training every evening.
What is your best contortion experience?
I am the winner of many awards. I have more than 200 medals, more than a hundred cups. Broke the record of the country – the maximum number of acrobatic elements. 111 unique elements
I recently had the chance to ask the amazing Ukrainian contortionist Elizaveta Chursina some questions about her life as a contortionist. She is an incredible contortionist who works incredibly hard and always strives to be the best performer she can be. She has a variety of different acts from Hola Hoops to Duo acrobatics to table contortion routine. She is one of the best contortionists ever and always has a smile on her face while performing.
If you ever need someone to bend over backwards for you, make sure it’s Ruslana Krutas. A Guinness World Record holder and one of the worlds flexible people in the world. She bends like she has no bones. Without a doubt, Ruslana is one of the best contortionists and also someone who is incredibly humble and determined and who I was grateful to call a good friend.
A Star is Unearthed
Ukraine has a plethora of talented girls who find themselves starting the most beautiful sports Rhythmic Gymnastics at a young age. Ruslana was no different. At the age of 3, her mother Lilya took Ruslana to gymnastics training. When she started, she was not flexible at all, “The most interesting thing about my childhood was that I was completely stiff, wooden, I can say.” Ruslana said while speaking to a news website in Ukraine. The gymnastics trainers were able to see Ruslana’s abilities and reveal them.
“I just saw my daughter’s abilities at a very young age, and she was where she needed to be,” Lilya, the mother of the record holder, smiles. – Ruslana is very flexible, sometimes it seems to me that she does not have bones.
At the age of 6, she decided to try her hand at contortion. Training under the eyes of Nikolai Ponurko at the Palace Culture in Kremenchuk, Ruslana began to enhance her flexibility. In 2012, Ruslana entered Kremenchuk’s Got Talent. She shocked and wowed the judges and audience with her excellent performance which saw her take out first place and win the prize of 3000 UAH. With countless hours of training at the circus studio and at home, she started to evolve into one of Ukraine’s best contortionists. With the win at Kremenchuk’s got Talent, this lead to her performing on Ukraine’s got Talent 2012.
The Star grows with Guidance
Early 2013 saw an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up arise. Ruslana was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work and train alongside World Famous Russian born, German contortionist Zlata (Julia Günthel), this lead to her first photo shoot with her. Zlata mentored and inspired Ruslana to continue to strive to be the worlds best.
The Star gains her World Record
On January 31st 2014, through the advise of Zlata, Ruslana and Lilya were invited to Shanghai to participate in a Guinness World Records attempt on CCTV-Guinness World Records Special at Heilan International Equestrian Club. The challenge for her was to pop the most balloons in a backbend in one minute. The nerves were running through the veins of Ruslana. She was going against the older Chinese contortionist Liu Teng. Ruslana was faced this challenge only 10 days after learning she would be attempting it. With only a week practice, she quickly got the hang of it and was confident she would pull it off.
Liu Teng went first and achieved 13 balloons popped in one minute, this was a contentious result due to some of the balloons popping instantly on contact with Liu’s leotard which had sharp spikes apart of the design. Ruslana still nervous and suffering jet-lag from the long flight, no time to acclimatize, cold studio and not appearing until 2am, she began the one minute exhausting attack at bursting as many balloons as possible, with words of encouragement from her mother, Ruslana powered home with a new found energy to finish. A relieved Ruslana was announced the winner with 24 balloons popped in a minute. With all her time taken up rehearsing, sightseeing sadly wasn’t able to be squeezed into their extremely brief visit to China.
What was the most difficult part of the performance ?
“Oh, I thought that the minute allocated for setting a record would never end.” It was the longest moment of my life! I did not consider the burst balls, because I was focused on clearly performing the movements, but it seemed to me that I had been pressing the balls for an eternity.”
Ruslana returned to China a year later and defended her title against Liu Teng again on CCTV. TV appearances in Japan shortly followed.
In 2015, Ruslana also appeared on Ukraine’s got Talent for the second time where she attempted her Balloon challenge again, she amazed the audience however wasn’t able to progress through to the next round.
Two Stars Align
In 2015, Ruslana traveled to Leipzig Germany to meet with her manager Steffen Günthel where she met another World Famous Contortionist Alina Ruppel. The two trained and worked together on some photo shoots and videos for the new website of Alina. In 2017, Ruslana and Alina met again, this time The Netherlands was the location for TV appearance again based around the balloon popping with ones back.
Netherlands TV Appearance
Ruslana continued to train incredibly hard with the goal of being one of the world’s most flexible people and best contortionists in the world.
They meet again but a different result reveals itself
In January 2017, Ruslana ventured to China once again for another appearance for Chinese New Year CCTV presentation. Yet again she was pitted against Liu Teng. The challenge this time was “Most flowers picked up with the mouth in a contortion backbend in one minute “. This performance lead to a level of frustration from Ruslana because according to her, she knew she could collect more flowers than her competitor but that was not the case. Liu Teng collected 17 flowers and Ruslana 16 flowers. Many viewers were bewildered as to how Liu Teng managed to get more roses than Ruslana with her looking slower and well behind Ruslana throughout the one minute.
Another trip to China occurred in late July 2017, this time without her Mum for support, this trip according to Ruslana was eye opening. Rather than the familiar city of Shanghai, the unfamiliar environment of Huaibei led to nerves, a little loss of motivation and a loss of appetite due to the unusual Chinese food. A bowl of borsch, some KFC or something familiar to someone many miles away from was definitely desired. Even though the trip was an eye opening experience for Ruslana, Ruslana grew as a person through this, became more independent, stronger and mature woman.
Two days I will remember forever
I had the privilege of getting to meet Ruslana in person in July 2017 while on a holiday to Ukraine. The first thing that stuck with me was her passion for contortion. Ruslana eats, sleeps and breaths contortion. “Contortion is my life” she proudly stated after queering if ever she wished she had a normal childhood like her classmates. Another thing that stuck with me was how humble, kind, considerate and welcoming she was. From allowing an Australian pen pal of hers to join her, and some of her friends for a refreshment at Kofan to even surprising me the day later with the offer to go for a walk to a cafe by the beach in Kremenchuk. I was taken back after she gifted me with a present for my mother back in Australia, she thanked me for the gifts from Australia I gave her. I was honoured to be able to call her a friend even if I lived on the other side of the world.
The Star continues to Shine brightly
After completing school with results she was content with, Kiev was calling, Ruslana was forunate to gain acceptance into the Circus Academy in Kiev. Upon moving to Kiev at the age of 17 years old, Ruslana began training with like minded and dedicated coaches at the Circus Academy in Kiev where she had countless hours of training nearly every day of the week. Performances around Europe under the assistance of her manager continue alongside training and further studying of English. The Circus Academy has trained numerous artists who’ve gone onto successful careers, they’ve even trained current Cirque Du Soleil performers.
A new routine “Lady in Red” was developed for her in 2017, after numerous training sessions and a large amount of determination, Ruslana debuted her new routine in Germany.
Showcasing to the world
After commencing her training at the Circus Academy of Kiev, Ruslana had the opportunity to work in some circus’s around the world, in the middle of 2018, Ruslana travelled to South America where she performed a part of Circo Estelar de Rusia. Visiting a plethora of different cities across South America. It was a challenging time for Ruslana mentally due to such differences in the way of life in South America compared to what she was used to. Following her stint in South America, Ruslana then had the chance to wow audiences in South Africa. Ruslana spent just over a month performing with Cirque Infernal in Johannesburg. It was one of her first performances where she got to showcase her hand balancing skills which she learnt at the Circus Academy in Kiev.
2019 saw Ruslana continue to focus on her training with the occasional performances. Mixed within her countless hours of training, Ruslana has been lucky enough to travel extensively throughout Europe, both for work and for leisure. Late 2019 saw Ruslana visit China again for another performance on Chinese television, this time on Universal Show – CCTV 4. Ruslana loves the atmosphere of performing on the big stage on television, it brings an incredible thrill to Ruslana although the preparation is not the easiest at times.
Late 2019 / Early 2020 was a difficult time for Ruslana mentally and physically as she suffered from anorexia. It was a frightening experience which resulted her being admitted to hospital. With a strong support network, Ruslana was able to overcome this and has become a more resilient and stronger person mentally. Ruslana said it was the worst time in her life. Early 2020 saw Ruslana make a trip to Brazil to appear on popular TV show “Hora Do Daro” which saw her showcase her incredible talent to the Brazilian people in the television studio and out in public.
2020 saw COVID 19 affect performers across the world, Ruslana was no different, she was unable to do what she loves, perform and amaze people with her incredible talents. 2020 saw Ruslana reengage with Julia Guenthel (Zlata) who is her manager, and this resulted in the choreographing of new routines including the new “Liquid Gold” routine. Pairing the creativity of Julia with the determination and talents of Ruslana is a contortion match made in heaven. Ruslana continues to strive for greatness and improves as a contortionist even during difficult situations.
At the end of 2020, Ruslana travelled to Romania to take part in Românii au talent (Romania’s got Talent). For her audition in front of the judges and a virtual audience, she performed her new Soul of Spain act, this was the first time Ruslana had had the opportunity to perform this new act. The judges were captivated by her performance and received high praise and a standing ovation. To top this off, judge Alexandra Dinu pressed the Golden Buzzer to the amazement of Ruslana. This means Ruslana will progress through to the semi finals, the joy on Ruslana was immense and infectious. After the year Ruslana had been through, to see her accomplish something of this level was awe inspiring. From battling her anorexia to catching Covid and all the other work issues involving Covid to then triumph and end the year with recognition for her talent was incredible.
After months to training but also a few set backs which included catching Covid-19 again in April, Ruslana travelled to Bucharest for the semi-finals in the middle of May, which happened to be the day before her 21st birthday, after celebrating her birthday alone in Bucharest, rehearsals and interviews followed throughout the week in the leadup to the semi-finals on Friday 21st May. Then came the night of the semi-finals, Ruslana was the 3rd semi-finalist to perform on the night. Where she was nervous and a little worried which according to Ruslana is normal for her before performing. Her act was a new act which featured elements of her world record balloon popping, incredible contortion skills and showcasing her new aerial hoop skills she has learnt while training with Tatiana Kuznetsova. Her performance got applause from all the judges. With only 6 semi-finalists moving through to the grand final, the chances of her moving through were difficult, unfortunately Ruslana was unsuccessful in moving through. She showcased her incredible talent and showed incredible strength, determination and passion for the thing she loves the most. Friends and family were all incredibly proud of her performance.
Ruslana is definitely a determined, hard working, strong, kindhearted, smart, intelligent and independent woman who undoubtedly can reach her goal of being the World’s Best Contortionist.
Whether she’s elbow standing her way across London or effortlessly gliding across the stage, Anastasiia (Nastya) does everything with a sense of joy and passion.
Nastya who originally started out as a dancer decided to take the leap into the world of contortion only a few years ago, with countless hours of training with well respected contortion coach Tatiana Kuznetsova based in Kiev.
In 2016 Nastya had the chance to appear on Chinese Talent Show where she performed an unbelievable routine which amazed the judges.
Nastya has had the opportunity to take her skills to Japan where she was a part of a show where she performed and wowed audiences. Upon her return to Kiev, her passion and continuous development as a contortionist continued. In 2017 she was lucky enough to score a role in a movie which was filmed in London, Nastya spent a few months there filming and also exploring the UK which resulted in her elbow standing her way across the UK.
Nastya now passes on her knowledge and expertness in dance and contortion through stretching and flexibility workshops she runs in Kiev. Her contortion routine has a unique blending of her incredible flexibility skills and her effortless dance skills.
Besides being an incredibly talented performer, she is also an incredibly smart women. She is an excellent writer and also multi-lingual and also does ballet as a hobby. She’s an incredibly kind and considerate person. If you ever get the opportunity to talk to Nastya or take one of her workshops, her passion for this beautiful art form of contortion and dance exudes out of her. I’m pleased to say she is one of the nicest, welcoming and kind person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.