Watch this skydiver dancing with the wind

Can a skydiver in a wind tunnel dance? Watch and see.
By Evan David

Dancers are known for being masters of movement – skydivers, more for being masters of safely throwing one’s self at the ground. But wind-tunnel pro Leonid Volkov is a little more talented than your average meat hucker – the Russian’s ‘freeflight’ manoeuvers make you wonder if he’s hiding a pair of invisible wings.

Watch him square off against contemporary modern dancer Gianlorenzo de Donno in the video above.

The wind lets you levitate

Volkov – who hails from Russia – has only been flying for three years, but his unique skills in the wind tunnel have got him noticed. With over 300 hours of flight in the tunnel, he’s now one of the most experienced wind tunnel athletes in the world. (It helps that it’s his job, too – he’s a coach/trainer at FlyStation in St Petersburg, Russia.

More movement in action

Interestingly enough, although he’s a coach, he doesn’t have a coach himself, unless you count his girlfriend, who helps with dance and choreography – and YouTube. “I watch video of different flyers, and try to repeat what they do,” he says. “But I really love to create my own style.”

The added element of music and rhythm makes Volkov’s flying so interesting and challenging. “Flying with music is difficult at first,” he says. “But it’s more interesting. After some days you understand how it works, and after that, it’s hard to fly without music!”

Skydiver Leonid Volkov at the wind tunnel in Brussels
Face-off © John Stapels

Knowing his thoughts on the subject, we thought it might be fun to put Volkov in the same space as Gianlorenzo de Donno, a modern dance professional from Rome, who lives in Paris and performs with a professional dance troupe. In a new take on the classic dance battle, the athlete and the artist (although it’s fair to say each are both athletes and artist) mimicked each other’s movement – Leonid in the tunnel, Gianlorenzo on the ground – and musician Jimmy Fabre on the turntables.

See how Leo flies

What did de Donno think?  "The most challenging part of the project, from my part, was to see him while dancing, and for him, to see me while he was flying. So we talked and did some repetition to get the connection." And the results? "When you see him live, you realize how he has to fight the wind for every maneuver, and it's more difficult than you think. I was really impressed!" 

The Airspace Wind Tunnel provided the perfect location for the DJ and dancers, letting the guys in for an all-night shoot during the tunnel's off-hours. Just for fun, we added a couple parkour athletes in, too – and we have to say the results are pretty entertaining.

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