Some might ask: How can you never get tired of Handstands? The simple answer is: Watching someone move with such ease and control - while knowing how much effort and strength it takes - will never cease to amaze me. This is the 10th issue of my ALL ABOUT HANDSTANDS Interview series, which I have started to share the many beautiful souls out there who dedicate their time on one or two hands instead of their feet.
I started following Andrey on Instagram because I was fascinated by his artistic expression of his passion: As a performance artist with his own, unique style which combines humor, elegance and precision which led him to work with Dragone, Cirque du Soleil, Festival Mondial Du Cirque du Demain. His spirit reminds me of black & white retro circus pictures and his movements of the bendiest and strongest bamboo. Let's find out more about Andrey.
1.) Q: Your IG name is @whoisandreymoraru. So, who IS Andrey Moraru?
A: I asked myself the same question in the summer of 2016, when I decided to change the name of my account, which was completely dormant at that time!
Since the page is about my work, what better way is there to continue staying fresh and creative than being incomplete, undone, unfinished and still becoming. Going through changes puts us in an uncharted and unfamiliar territory while usually we always like to stay in control. So, the page name reflects that ongoing journey of navigating my path without trying to influence the outcome.
2.) Q: What is the craziest One Arm Handstand variation you can do and what is your favorite Handstand of all?
A: There’s definitely more than one! Though I think explaining an entire sequence might sound a bit sterile and flat compared to the visual display, but as far as poses go, one of my favorites is a “ T ” shaped, one arm handstand aka “Figa”. Variation with legs together has the simplest “design”, and is one of the most impressive poses in my opinion, because it’s so simple and easy to appreciate. You’ll see it in the picture…
There are different streams of practice and alternative scenes out there that involve doing dangerous stunts infused with handstands. I’ve NEVER been tempted to hand balance on top of a building somewhere, or in any sort of compromising circumstances.
With that said, I have done one arm balances on a high stack of chairs with no safety belt (a reduced version of harness) in performance, many times. The reason I did that is because at the time, taking on chair stacking act was the only option I had at my disposal (other than becoming an illegal immigrant and risking my future) in order to stay and work in the U.S. legally. So, I had to learn to adapt and overcome my fears in order to take this idea from it’s inception in the training space, to performing it on stage in a month. I’m grateful for having been given that opportunity by “Cirque Dreams” company.
The thing about the balancing skill is: It will test you EVERY time you think you “have it for sure”. You’ll be checked to see if you still got it no matter how long you’ve been training or how many times you’ve done a particular sequence of moves.
Though I enjoy watching other hand balancers doing all kinds of impressive tricks and have enjoyed achieving some of the most difficult moves myself, at this time my main focus is on refining the poses and sequences I already have. Whether I’m tired, sick or feeling crazy, I want to make sure that I can do a certain number of elements no matter what. Even if it’s still not 100% guaranteed. Beyond that, I am passionate about exploring what lies outside of the physicality of my practice.
3.) Q: At what age did you start training? Did you do Ballet or…?
A: My amateur training started when I was 11. But I was physically active and tested my agility long before that.
As for Ballet, I have taken mandatory ballet classes during my time in the professional Circus school in Kiev, Ukraine, but could never truly begin to connect with the essence of this art form until years later. Probably because those classes always took place after 4-5 hours of all-out handstand training, which nearly always ended with intense strength and endurance conditioning, but was hardly ever followed up by lunch. Maybe a hot dog if I had a minute on the way to the class.
So, as my stomach growled incessantly during ballet barre sequences and heavy sleeping daze was overtaking my body, most of my barely remaining focus and energy was fixated on the clock instead of the task at hand, unfortunately. Nevertheless, movement is a big part of my life. And ironically, I infused dance in some form into most all of my hand balance acts for years and years. I’m still doing just that, despite not having formal dance training.
4.) Q: Are you a Yogi? How do you maintain your flexibility?
I stretch as often as I can. It is normally a standard part of my balance practice but I often do it outside of training hours, whenever my body feels like it could use a stretch. Sometimes 10-15 minutes will be all I need to continue whatever I’m doing.
I admire Yoga practice and try many different poses, but I cannot call myself a Yogi. With that said, in my own work and practice I operate based on some of the same principles as those found in Yoga, and in that sense you could say I’m a person who appreciates wisdom / intelligence of the body, and is in the process of becoming a Yogi.
5.) Q: Which are the 3 most important exercises you think everyone should do?
A: Everyone’s bodies are different and there are many amazing exercises one can do to achieve different goals. But, if we’re talking about hand balance specifically, in my opinion the 3 areas fundamental for making gains are: Flexibility, Strength and Endurance.
I’ll add Balance to that list as well... Some people achieve all 3, but we need 4th, the Balance part, to unify the effect of development in those 3 areas in different poses or drills.
Developing sharper sense of balance is like chipping away the cracking pieces of mental and physical make up that slow down our advanced reaction timing which dwells beneath the thought stream of intellectual understanding of the balancing process. We need “mileage” of the actual experience of attempting to find balance in order to uncover the ability to practice and perform in a heightened state of flow... Once those layers are removed, balance becomes intuitive and we find ourselves on top of a summit, before a vast new landscape. Those 4 areas require constant attention and make notable difference in the learning and/or maintaining of this skill.
In life outside of hand balance, I think walking long distances, climbing, swimming and stretching (again!) will make quite a difference overtime for anyone who makes it a habit to do those things at least 4-5 days a week. Again, everyone is different but I believe that the more active we are, the longer we last.
6.) Q: Why do you stand on your hand/s? Is standing on your feet too boring?
A: At times standing on hands can get very boring too! In my case, it made perfect sense at the time when most things in my life didn’t. It wasn’t so much what it looked like on the surface (though it was absolutely fascinating to watch), but what it represented, and what it sparked inside of me. An unmistakable feeling of right direction in life and a perfectly worthy challenge. Therefore, here I am years later, representing this athletic and creative art form which changed my life.
To me, it didn’t have to make sense from a rational standpoint. My intuition simply flashed bright green light and I followed that invitation!
7.) Q: What is the most common mistake(s) in training handstands and how to solve it?
1 - Being discouraged too soon because results are slow to show up, is one of the most common mistakes we can make. Just be patient and keep at it. It helps to define for yourself personally and re-define what it means to practice handstands. Reinforcing strong internal foundation along with consistent external practice will help you advance faster.
2 - Working more on trying to hold poses, and not enough on practicing various transitions in-between them, as well as entering and exiting a handstand, will in many cases delay progress.
Our balance in inversion is as good as the way we enter into it and our next position will be as good as our exit out of the last inversion and transition/entrance into new one.
In my experience, balancing on hands and concept of balance in general, is all about including and excluding the exact number of elements on each side of the scales in order to level it out, no matter how twisted those scales may get.
Outside of training, no matter what life hits or gifts us with, it is our task to balance out our inner scales between sanity and insanity, and to remain steady, focused and strong.
8.) Q: Beginners always wonder on how to get started with training handstands when there is a lack of strength. How would a short training sequence for strength building (for absolute beginners) look like?
A: Again, I think everyone’s bodies are different but in general I would recommend strengthening shoulders, triceps, upper/lower back and wrists, to begin with. Add endurance training to that and you’ve got a great tool kit to work with.
In hand balance, where there is a lack of strength, technique fills the void. That’s how it was and still is in my case. I didn’t have nearly enough physical strength when I started, just like anyone else who’s a beginner. Unless you are genetically gifted in some way, there are no shortcuts to building physical strength. It happens gradually over days, weeks, months and years of consistent training. It goes away and it comes back, it grows and changes. It’s similar to the idea of investing energy and effort into building bigger “batteries” where we can store greater amounts of energy that we can draw upon to carry us over the hurdles in our skill practice.
9.) Q: Is there a secret to one arm handstands? How can I get started to work on balancing on one arm? Does this require more strength or “just” an understanding of how to shift the weight?
A: I will start with the second / third question. It requires both to some degree, and it will fluctuate between one and the other. What I find helpful whenever facing such a goal, is to try to break it down into simplest elements, at the most basic level. That way it acquires a much more realistic aura and I can begin to take required steps toward it, one day at a time without jumping too far ahead in my head.
Holding one arm handstand does take strength. It also takes understanding and knowing how to shift the weight (which I talked about when asked about common mistakes in training: Don’t forget to practice transitions!), and it requires developing balance to hold it. All of that takes personal perseverance and training. The “real secret”, in my humblest opinion lies in the consistency of GROWING and SHIFTING one’s belief system and faith in one’s abilities, as well as readiness to transition from the “passenger area” into the “driver’s seat”.
I still don’t have an actual driver’s license to this day, so who am I to speak about that right?! Well, I did get my seemingly unobtainable “Handbalancer’s License” long ago, using that exact idea of building my confidence in my own abilities to execute the beauty, creativity and strength of this amazing discipline.
10.) Q: How do you eat? Do you use protein powder or other supplements?
A: I don’t use protein powder. I do take vitamins from time to time but nothing regular at this time.
As far as food...I do like vegetables along with a few other select ingredients like fish, turmeric and parmesan among few, and became nothing short of a self-proclaimed salad Master when I came up with the perfect formula and recipe for my body in 2015. There was a phase while I lived in Los Angeles, where for several months I ate nothing but that very salad for dinner and I have always prepared it myself!
I don’t have a “Saturday cheat day” nor do I divide my week into days when I only eat certain things. Avoiding intake of any sort of processed foods is my number one goal, though it still slips through the cracks haha. What’s important also is the amount of food we’re eating, I think. I generally prefer staying light and mobile. So, I like to eat just enough food to be able to go on with my day without taking time for it to settle. Some days I don’t eat anything at all until dinner, and that can include show days when dinner time is around midnight. But, I do drink plenty of water on such days, or any other day for that matter. For my own amusement, I like to tell people that I’m like a rare and exquisite flower that loves to be watered regularly. My body simply demands H2o!
With that said, given the right amount of hunger...I can empty up the fridge, shelves and drawers in the kitchen, just like anyone else.
11.) Q: What was the last book you read?
A: Unstoppable. By Maria Sharapova.
12.) Q: What was the last thing you bought that made your life easier?
A: Hmmm…I would say the most recent (as recent as few days ago) development that brought a breath of minty fresh air into my life, was the decision to revitalize the role of my severely underutilized ipod in a daily routine (especially on long walks) by completely renewing it’s musical content and infinitely enriching my daily experience (right kind of music is important!) as a result. Therefore it is pouring large amounts of fuel onto the fresh and hungry fires of inspired motivation to continue my crusade of self-discovery in the context of ever changing world that surrounds us.
13.) Q: Where can I train with you and where can I see you perform?
A: The easiest way to get acquainted with my work is to check out my Instagram pages and YouTube channel listed below.
I’m also traveling to western Europe in August to teach series of hand balance workshops with Room 21 Balance, a company my great friend and training partner Jaakko Tenhunen and me co-founded last year in order to create a solid platform where people from all over the world can learn about hand balance based on our shared experience of 30 years of training, performing and teaching in different corners of the world. Either through an online tutorial platform we have at room21.net, or via in-person participation in workshop and joint training.
You can find Andrey on:
Instagram: @whoisandreymoraru & @room21balance
Youtube: Youtube Channel