Kaz Novak/torstar news service


Christine Cadeau, right, and Danielle Schlosser help out while Hailie O’Brien dives through the ropes. Cadeau and her husband, Kosta Zakharenko, have opened a circus school.


What makes a great circus performer? It’s not the amazing balance, the uncommon flexibility, the upper-body strength, nor the fluid co-ordination that determine who will be a great circus performer.


It’s not even the courage to do dangerous stunts in front of thousands of paying customers that separates the good circus artists from the great.

Kosta Zakharenko, who is opening Hamilton’s first circus school with his wife, Christine Cadeau, has learned over 25 years in the business that the essential qualities are the same that make great leaders in many other fields: teamwork, trust, willingness to risk failure and determination to overcome it. And of those, he said, it’s teamwork that matters most of all.

“There are so many talented people who can work physically,” said the former Cirque du Soleil acrobat. “You can be great at your job, but you’re not going to last long if you don’t know how to work with other people.”

Working well in a dangerous environment is only possible if everyone can rely on everyone else, Zakharenko adds. “You have to be able to really trust people you work with.”

Talent, he says, doesn’t matter without commitment. He remembers in his acrobatics school in Ukraine, there were many pupils more talented than him, but they lacked perseverance and quit. He had started out in the middle of the pack, but went farthest because he kept working at it.

And even with trust and training, one must still overcome failure.

“Everyone fails. I did, and I don’t know anybody who didn’t,” he explained. “You have to be proud of what you’re doing and understand that you’re doing something that most people don’t even dare to do. It’s not how you fall. It’s how you get up.”