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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

weird moscow

Marina Kordoban squeezes into very small boxes for a living.

Born in a one-horse town near Rostov-on-Don, Kordoban ran away to join the circus at the age of 15. "There was nothing else to do there," she said, "so I used to practice spinning hula hoops around my waist."

She progressed to juggling while balancing on a meter-high silver balloon. But it wasn't until she took up yoga lessons in her spare time that she realized her true vocation in life. She started climbing into a cube the height of her shin, closing the lid, and having someone spin her round a couple of times for good measure. She hasn't looked back since.

These days she has a regular act in the Moscow State Circus on Tsevtnoi Bulvar. Dressed in a gold leotard and leopard skin G-string, with a shock of curly blond hair and enough paint on her face to make over a metro-load of babushki, she appears on the stage before the white tigers strut their stuff.

Isn't it a bit of a squash in the box?

"Of course it's tight and a little hard to breathe," said Marina, "but I'm used to it by now." She has to train for an hour before the show to loosen all her muscles and joints, and after her act she does another half hour of yoga exercises to cool off.

Catch her at the circus every day at 7 p.m., except Tuesdays. You'll have to hurry, though, because in August she is heading for the States where she has been signed by the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus as the star attraction.

"I'm going to be the woman in a bottle," she said with pride. "They're building it specially so that my head will fit in the neck of the bottle, and at the end of the show I'll be hoisted up above the crowd."

So what does she do on her days off? "Well, mostly I'm sweating it out in my dressing room, waiting my turn to practice in the ring. But sometimes I go to the cinema for a bit of a break."