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Yuri & Tonya

Yuri comes from a background of Russian Circus. His father was part of the “Amazing Gridneffs” Ladder Balancers who travelled from Russia through China , India , South Africa , Scandinavia and Europe . They appeared at The London Palladium with George Formby, Toured the Moss Empires with Gracie Fields & Max Miller and shared top Billing with Charlie Cairoli at The Tower Circus, Blackpool . His mother was part of a family of Musical clowns The Ralpfinis who also left Russia for Japan, India and Europe.

The Amazing Gridneff's at the London Palladium

The Amazing Gridneff's at the London Palladium

Yuri joined his parent’s ladder act and toured the Variety theatres until most closed in the mid fifties. They worked with most stars of the day including Alma Cogan, Guy Mitchell, Mel Torme, Max Bygraves & Ken Dodd. Yuri went into the RAF Regiment for national service and served in Northern Ireland and in Cyprus when independence was attained

Yuri at 16 (top) at Collins Music Hall, Islington

Yuri at 15 (top) at Collins Music Hall, Islington

Yuri juggling 8 rings on a unicycle

Yuri juggling 8 rings on a unicycle

When Yuri came out of the forces he married Tonya who he had met in Pantomime on the Isle of White during the fifties. Tonya had been a student at Corona academy Stage school in London . She appeared in many films as a child and worked with many stars like Gregory Peck in the Million pound note. A fellow student was Richard O’Sullivan. Tonya’s main interest was in Dancing, it was this that took her into the pantomime where she met Yuri.

Tonya, Dancing with Cavalcade

Tonya, Dancing with Cavalcade

Yuri & Tonya formed their own act to work in Circus; however they were soon appearing in Theatres and night clubs. It was night clubs that took them abroad, spending many months in Israel , Malta and Belgium . They also toured in Finland , Spain , Germany and France . They took part in a World Cruise and have appeared many times on TV in such shows as Sunday night at the London Palladium, Chipperfields Xmas Circus and of course Crackerjack. Two appearances at Buckingham Palace before the Queen & the Queen mother were very memorable.

Yuri & Tonya in Cabaret 'Tel Aviv'

Yuri & Tonya in Cabaret 'Tel Aviv'

Since 1985 they concentrated on Primary schools and Toured the UK from Lands end to John O Groats. They were invited to return to the same Schools many times over the years. When talking to the children, so many wanted to try juggling and the unicycle that they added the Circus skills workshop to their show. It was conducted with strict discipline and by the end of the session a great deal of pleasure had been had by children, teachers and Yuri & Tonya. By the end of the day the whole School was buzzing with happiness and asking when they were coming again.

It was this experience that encouraged them to join with the other artistes to form Blackpool Circus School . It was to give them the chance to work with and develop the skills of talented children on to a career in the Circus.

'Toni assists a young student

'Toni assists a young student

This has indeed come about since they stopped touring in 2003 with Blackpool Circus School being involved in many local events with their students performing to a professional standard.

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