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Circus alum advances on NBC show America’s Got Talent

Illinois State grad Christian Stoinev ’13 is advancing on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

The veteran circus performer appeared on the June 17 episode of the competition show. Now in its ninth season, America’s Got Talent features a mix of performers—from singers and dancers to magicians and ventriloquists—who are all vying for a $1 million prize.

Stoinev received “yes” votes from all four judges, meaning he’ll appear in the next round of competition (Judgment Week), airing July 22-23. Judgment Week determines which acts will perform live at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, vying for viewer votes.

“See you in the next round! Great audition!” judge Howard Stern told Stoinev after his hand-balancing performance.

It’s only the latest big stage for Stoinev, a fifth-generation performer who’s been entertaining crowds since age 5. The acrobatic Stoinev has won international awards and, at just age 13, was one of the youngest acts in the renowned Big Apple Circus. After coming to Illinois State to study broadcast journalism, Stoinev became one of the stars of Illinois State’s historic Gamma Phi Circus.

He became the first in his family to graduate college in 2013, and since then Stoinev, 22, has been performing in NBA halftime shows, pairing his unique hand-balancing skills with his Chihuahua companion, Scooby.

“I will always promote ISU for anybody who’s thinking about going to college because it definitely set me on the right path, and I hope to continue heading that way,” Stoinev told STATEside earlier this year during a campus visit. “And I’ll never forget where I came from: ISU.”

Stoinev also appeared in season 2 of America’s Got Talent back in 2007.

Ryan Denham can be reached at



I'm sure the judges loved it!

Ryan, nicely composed. As a parent of past GammaPhi circuslings, I am quite excited to see and hear about our alums making positive use of their skills in the world! Thank you. Now: Go Go Christian! Go Go Gamma Phi! Gamma Phi Do or Die GO GO GO!

Christian was marvelous on "America's got Talent." His "finger stand" was unbelievable. Wish "Pop" could have seen it. He would have been very impressed!