By Caroline Fontein
While some relationships can get on the rocks, husband and wife Victor and Jenny Arata are always on a roll. Better known as, the Skating Aratas, these performers put their lives in each other’s hands every time they get on stage.
The duo performers as one of the specialty acts in “V-The Ultimate Variety Show” at the Miracle Mile Shops adjacent to Planet Hollywood. In their act they do a series of dangerous and mind-boggling poses while wearing traditional roller skates and spinning at a high speed on a 6-foot by 6-foot platform.
Victor acts as the base by propelling the couple in a fast-paced spin. As he spins, he holds on to Jenny as she transitions from skating to being whipped around in the air. Sometimes she has one leg up on his shoulder and other times she’s holding on to Victor with only her skates locked together behind his head. Their close proximity to the crowd adds to their exhilarating act.
The couple is in peak physical condition. They make what they do look graceful, but anyone watching can see that their act is risky. Knowing that they’re married adds another element of danger to the routine.
“A lot of trust has to go into it to be able to do it well and to not freak out. If you freak out during a trick that’s when it gets dangerous,” said Victor.
For Victor, who was born in England, performing a dangerous act was in his blood. From a seventh generation circus family, he and his siblings learned this act from their parents. His mom performed in the circus as an aerialist. She did the flying trapeze and the Russian swing. Part of her routine included jumping through hoops of fire and then landing on a pyramid of people. His dad was from an Italian circus family. He and his brother were known for their daring tricks on the tightrope. They performed around the world including in Vegas in 1962 for two years as part of Don Arden’s show at the Desert Inn, “Hello America.”
While Arata’s mother was used to performing a dangerous act, she wanted to teach her children something safe. She came up with the idea for a skating routine because it requires no staging elements or props other than one platform, and it can be performed anywhere in the world. Arata was 5 when he, his brother and sister started training for the routine.
Learning the routine as a child took years of training. Sometimes Arata and his siblings would practice with their mom for up to 10 hours a day. Training for that roller skating act included body building and cross training in order to develop stamina. This was necessary so that Arata and his siblings could perform a series of explosive 30 second tricks without stopping for a break.
People who have seen the show may be surprised to hear that the skating routine was meant to be a safe act. However, the initial skating routine that Arata learned from his mom was much less risky than what audiences see today. He used to perform on a 10-foot by 10-foot platform, and the act consisted of simple tricks performed with his sister.
“We were just a bunch of kids having fun on stage and seeing what we could do and how we could make the audience scared and shocked. That’s how it developed, just showing off basically,” said Arata.
Jenny, who was born in Germany, also had a performance background as an acrobatic dancer. She and Victor met while performing in a variety show in Berlin. When they first fell in love, Victor was apprehensive about doing his act with Jenny. The only other successful female partner he had was his sister. When she was injured, Victor tried teaching the act to other women, and it never worked out.
Victor and Jenny were together for a year before they decided to do the act. Once they knew they wanted to build a future together, Victor started teaching Jenny the routine.
His first step was getting Jenny to build more muscle mass. As a dancer she had a lot of lean muscle, but more than that is needed for the skating routine. Victor explained that muscle mass is important so that Jenny’s back, neck and core would be strong enough to hold her bones and joints in place while she’s spinning around in the air.
“When you’re turning around at high speeds your joints tend to hyperextend. So your knees hyperextend, your lower back can sometimes hyperextend. You can have for example the risk of hernia or your knees can dislocate or your shoulder can dislocate,” said Arata.
To prevent that, Victor got Jenny into the gym and put her on on a training and eating routine like what a body builder would do. Six to eight months of the training process was getting Jenny to build more muscles.
While she was body building Jenny was also practicing roller skating. Growing up in Russia, she had experience as a figure skater, which made her a natural when it came to roller skating. Even thought the couple doesn’t do many skating moves, apart from spinning, in their act, it’s essential that they both feel comfortable maneuvering on wheels.
Next, Victor worked with Jenny to help her feel comfortable during and after being spun around at a fast pace. While on skates, he would spin her until she was dizzy. This was done at varying intervals until Jenny could be spun around without feeling really disoriented. The process took about three months.
Then Jenny had to learn not only all the moves in the routine but how to trust Victor while whirling around on a small platform. It took the couple about three years to get a professional act together, which Victor says is an amazing feat. As someone who has done this act almost his entire life, he never thought he’d be able to train his wife to perform where they’re at today. He says that being married and committed to one another is the reason behind that.
“[Jenny] knows if it wasn’t me, her husband, she would have never done this kind of act, and I would have never taught another girl… It all came together — marriage, work, love and trust made it possible,” said Arata.