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They came to the interview in full makeup. Their light...

February 15, 2004

They came to the interview in full makeup. Their light eyes twinkled

from behind a mask of blue face paint, accentuated by elaborate wisps

of gold and streaks of white.

Andrew and Kevin Atherton are the acclaimed "aerial twins" in

Cirque du Soleil's performance, "Varekai," which is currently playing

at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. Their jaw-dropping performance

involves gravity-defying swoops, twists and leaps, high above the

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Cirque stage, with a final move that leaves Andrew hanging onto his

brother by one arm.

It was during a break between training and the 4 p.m. show that

the Atherton twins joined columnist Lolita Harper for an informal

interview in the food trailer -- set up in the blue-and-yellow-tented

Cirque city that has taken over the grounds.

How did you get involved in Cirque du Soleil?

Kevin: We were both former gymnasts on the Great Britain national

team, so we did that for nearly 20 years -- something like that. And

then Cirque du Soleil sends their scouts out all over the world, to

scout for various people and they spotted us at one of the various

[events] and they approached us and asked us to join. And we weren't

quite ready and when we were 24, they asked us again.

So, you have been with the organization?

Andrew: We've been with Cirque du Soleil now, for, I would say 3

years. We came to do farming, which is where they take you from

gymnastics and bring you to the studio, which is based in Montreal,

and there they teach you various things. They will mainly try to get

you out of just gymnastics and into acting, dancing theater and even

signing. It is just the way of breaking the barriers from being a

gymnast to being a performer on stage. And from there we came to do

the show. And we have been doing the shows now for about three years.

Was there interest in performance arts before your tour with

Cirque?

Andrew: Before we did gymnastics, my sister was into dancing, so

we did a little dancing earlier. And, of course, when you do

gymnastics, you always do things like ballet and things like that --

it is just a part of it. Then after first joining Cirque du Soleil,

we found out we were doing this new creation, Varekai, we actually

had a break on tour, so then we want back home and did a theater show

in London. That was our first real experience with acting on stage.

What you do looks dangerous. Are there a lot of injuries in this

line of work? Have you guys suffered any thus far?

Kevin: We're both very, very serious about what we do, so a lot of

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