Yasha from Russia

Today we interview Russian contortionist Yasha Lebedev who surprised us with his adorable selfie, straight from the ever snowy Saint Moscowburg!

In this interview Yasha talks about his life as well as his part in the male rhythmic gymnastics tournament Hoops of Tomorrow!

Looking at your picture, I can't help but notice the similarities with Andrzej's latest update: it's a selfie made against the poster of your own local show. This couldn't possibly be a coincidence?

Yasha: Sure, it was his idea that we both do that! We're gonna make it real hard for the people to decide which of us is the best because we really are like twins. We're both circus boys with female coaches and the softest spines in the world. The only difference he's into black and shiny, while I'm into white and fluffy. The perfect Yin-Yang, you know?

Another difference is that Andrzej barely shows any skin while your outfits are always extremely revealing. Wouldn't expect to see a person from such a cold and morally restrained country so scantily clad.

Morally restrained? What are you talking about, even our president is riding around half-naked on his horse and our art museums are practically nothing but nudes. As for cold, it's true! As they say, the Russian calendar has two winters and only one summer. You have to wear sweaters and coats most of the year... It's incredibly boring, you know? But seriously, I'm just a huge fan of nude sculpture, myself, so I'm not ashamed of the human anatomy. I study it and enjoy every detail! In fact, the classical marble boys are my most intense inspirations and I'm taking art classes and trying to work as a nude model too. Maybe it will be my specialty after retiring from gymnastics. Most of my friends say with my looks I don't need to bend my back so much to make money but what do I do, I love backbending way too much right now!

So those sculptures you mentioned, they must make you frequent the museums a lot, you must have learned quite a bit about history and so on... Speaking of which, does your homeland have a history of any form of contortion?

Oh yes, I was just reading a book about it, thanks for asking! Apparently ancient Slavic shamans used acrobatic feats to deal with the otherworld, for example imagine the ordinary backbend with the head getting through the legs was actually seen by the ancient as an act of magic as people couldn't wrap their minds around such flexibility. So the ancients believed they could peek into the world of spirits by looking through their own legs like that! My only guess is those shamans were mostly youths who were trained so poorly, forced to bear it to the extremes and really rushing it too, so that's why the first name of their country was Rusha. No wonder they were super dizzy and had a lot of hallucinations because of how much their bodies struggled. If they had a proper training regime, they could stop seeing "spirits", but then I guess they wouldn't be needed anymore.

Cool story, teaches you to never forget to please the spirits between your legs but never rush it... However, Yasha, what about your own past? Your coach, Marina, she's a famous contortionist who still performs even in her twenties. Do you remember the first time she stretched you?

Sure, it was when I was a first grader, my parents sent me to a summer camp by the sea, so I went to swim every morning and once spotted a group of children doing all sorts of stretches and an older girl guiding them. What they were doing made me so curious that I just stood there watching until the older girl called for me and encouraged me to try it! She asked me to lay my belly on the towel and arch myself backwards trying to bring my head to my toes. I did that on the first try and was completely shocked that I had in me the whole time! At the end of that day I could pull my foot from behind and stare at my sole above my forehead! And in two months I was among the best in the group! Every day Marina told me I was born to be a contortionist and I grew very attached to her, but the best thing was me and her lived in the same city, she worked in the circus that was pretty close to my home, so I've been seeing her every day for ten years now!

So getting back to Andrzej who's going to be your opponent in the rhythmic gymnastics tournament... How do you feel about him?

Oh, I'm a big fan of him, we chat a lot and we always share our newest stuff. So if I win I'll be proud but if he wins I'll be happy! I'm a bit worried about his taste for outfits though, that black unitard makes him look very elegant as he moves but all the more extreme bends are degraded to mere silhouettes... I think most contortion experts won't give him very high rates if they can only see the contours. If he could wear, say, a g-string, now that would be a bomb! Or at least a high-cut leo...

In other words, you believe you can win because your own outfit consists of a couple of strings that barely stick together. But if you win, what kind of show we can expect? I remind our readers that the winner gets to choose what kind of show him and the loser will do together.

Where did I put it? Ah yes, ahem. It's basically a version of "The Swan Lake", one of the famous ballet shows from the 19th century's Imperial Russia... A disillusioned wizard turns a beautiful youth into a white swan who can never leave the lake in front of the wizard's hut. A young hunter then goes through the forest and falls in love with the swan's true form but after many tries he fails to help dispelling the enchantment. In the end he chooses to submit to the wizard and get turned into a black swan himself, so that the two swans can bend together forever and make Yins and Yangs and stuff :3

But if you lose, Andrzej will make you part of his show instead. His idea is called "My Black Kitten", which can be interpreted in many ways I guess. What does it make you think of, in terms of your own part in it?

Well, if he's the black kitten then maybe I can be a white one? I don't mind being a swan or a cat, anything as long as it's white. It's my favorite color. My laptop is stuffed with pictures of white-furred animals, wintry landscapes, marble and porcelain sculptures... don't even get me started. I guess we're doomed to curl into a bendy Yin-Yang no matter the outcome of this tournament, hehe.

💌 What do you think?

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