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Friday, November 16, 2018

Scaling New Heights

by Joanna Andrews

Twenty-eight-year-old Viachaslau Petrakou, or Slava as he is known to friends, is one of the artists performing two shows at day, five times a week at La Perle by Dragone at Al Habtoor City. Joanna Andrews caught up with the Belarusian national to find out more about his exciting role.

Slava started his career as a young gymnast in Belarus. Hard work and perseverance resulted in him competing for the national team, and eventually securing a job in Franco Dragone’s hit show Alegria. He spent the next six years travelling around the world with the Cirque de Soleil show. In all that time, he had never met the famous artistic director.

In 2000, following the success of Cirque du Soleil, Franco Dragone set up his own company in his namesake, Dragone, which is headquartered in his native Belgium. He has since produced many successful theatrical productions around the world, mainly in Asia and the US. After a chance meeting with the Al Habtoor family the concept of La Perle by Dragone was born. Once Slava got wind of the plans for a world-class show in a purpose-built theatre in Dubai he knew it would be his chance to finally meet Dragone in person. “I had worked for so long for a Franco show, without ever having the honour of meeting the man himself, so I made it my mission to be hired on his show,” he said. “I was coming for one reason: Franco Dragone… I auditioned for La Perle and now here I am.”

He jokes that when he first met him it was like meeting someone from another planet. “He speaks the same language, but sometimes you have no idea what he is talking about until you see the final result and it is always amazing. He’s a really warm and genuine person and someone I highly admire.”

The artist says that securing the role was like a dream come true. “The UAE is a country I have always fantasized about. I love Dubai. It is a beautiful city; from the friendly people you meet to the guaranteed amazing weather.”

Slava’s main performance is the Bungee Straps act, which sees him flying through the air, scaling heights of up to 40 metres at rapid pace – with extreme precision. “You’ll see me in the middle of the five performers,” he said. “I also often perform High Dive, V Poles … and as one of the reptiles crawling out of the water.”

He says the most dangerous act he performs is the high dive. “One small mistake can be really dangerous, but that’s why we’re here, to learn how minimize the risk. We know what to do to be safe and look beautiful and impress audiences.” But he nonchantly adds, “I have to admit, I quite like the danger, it’s addictive.”

Slava says that he feels a sense of freedom when he performs, “Some people are born to be in the office, some on TV, I feel like I’m born to be here. I feel like I should have been born a bird in the air and this is the closest I can get.”

He says at first his family expressed their fear about his career choice, but once they saw him perform they were mesmerized. “Because they both worked in an office all their lives they couldn’t understand the path that I had taken, but once they saw me in action they said, ‘Okay, now we can relax and feel assured, as you know what you’re doing and you enjoy it.’”

He says the best part about his job is putting a smile on the audience’s face, “Especially when people are 50+, and they are smiling like kids. We have the power to transform serious looking faces into those of pure joy.”

Slava says he feels spoilt with the state-of-the-art, purpose-built theatre where La Perle is based at Al Habtoor City. “The building is so incredible and I could talk all day about the special effects, but the thing that I find most impressive is the fact we can make it rain inside – that’s something you never normally see anywhere in Dubai and it happens right here in Al Habtoor City!”

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