A three-metre tall polar bear walks – well, stumbles – into a shopping centre, followed by his other bear friends. You might be worried about them causing chaos, but before you know it, they’re dancing to classic pop music like no one’s watching.
These bears are best friends with Vadim Vanyukhov, a clown from Belarus.
In his country, Vanyukhov is better known as Vadik Raketa, which means Vadik the Rocket.
“I’m a very energetic person, like a rocket ... if I want something in my life, I make it happen,” he says in explanation of the nickname and stage name he gave himself a few years ago.
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Vadik shot to fame after appearing on British TV competition, Britain’s Got Talent (BGT). Vadik and the Bear – otherwise known as the clown with white face paint, a Scottish kilt and giant dancing polar bears – was a big hit in this year’s BGT, wowing lead judge Simon Cowell.
The first clown to get into BGT’s semi-finals, Vadik has brought his arctic friends to Hong Kong for the festive season.
Five polar bears and one puffin all hopped on a plane with Vadik to escape the freezing winter in Belarus.
“This time of year is beautiful in Hong Kong, so it’s very nice to spend Christmas [here],” says Vadik, who went to the Academy of Choreography in Minsk, Belarus, and danced classical ballet after an injury ended his career as a football player.
He started clowning around to entertain his daughters, but it wasn’t long before his audience expanded. His two little girls still get to dictate his show, though, and a simple “Papa, I don’t like it” is enough to make him drop an act.
“Children’s laughter is a beautiful thing,” says Vadik. And so he decided to make a career out of making people smile. “It’s a good feeling.”
When Vadik started the show, he only had one bear.
“Now I have an army of 34 bears. You just need a very good stage and a big place to keep them,” he says.
Of course, Vadik isn’t dancing with real polar bears, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can put the suit on.
“The man inside the bear is very important,” he says. “The dancers are world championship-winning breakdancers.”
Even though the show is called Vadik and the Bear – a name they picked up on BGT – the act isn’t limited to bears.
Vadik takes Lunar New Year as an example to explain that the artists in his crew would also be able to handle the traditional lion dance.
“Why not? We want to do an energetic show; one that’s funny,” he says. The content doesn’t matter as long as children like it and it makes them laugh.
Taking the show to IFC, Vadik hops around the icebergs of the Polar Resort – an installation in the middle of the shopping centre that has brought the North Pole to Hong Kong – with his bear friends and invites the audience to dance with them. One of the main features of his act is inviting members of the audience to help him get a fish back from a penguin.
However, Vadik is keen to keep his three-metre tall, dancing polar bear routine as realistic as possible, so for the IFC show, instead of a penguin, he has a puffin, because there are no penguins in the North Pole.
But while many might argue that seeing the act once is enough, Vadik insists it’s a constantly developing work.
“Every day you’ll see something new in our show,” he says, adding that the team are thinking of improvements 24/7: “It’s our work; it’s our life [to entertain].”
Vadik and the Bear is booked to perform at Eric’s (Simon Cowell’s three-year-old son) birthday party in February. If you’re not invited, you can always catch up with the crew at IFC this Christmas – there are daily performances until December 27.
Edited by Lucy Christie