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Cirque du Soleil Thrills Audiences

Twenty years ago the original performers of Cirque du Soleil were street performers in Quebec Canada walking on stilts, juggling, and playing music. From these humble beginnings their circus has grown to be one of the largest and most famous in the world. VOA's Tetiana Vorozhko recently attended Cirque du Soleil's show called "Saltimbanco" and spoke to some of the show's stars. Jim Bertel has the story.

They spin and sail around their poles seemingly defying gravity with their intricately choreographed routines. These performers are part of the nearly one thousand artists performing with Cirque du Soleil in more than a dozen simultaneous shows around the world. Unlike traditional circuses, each unique show is a synthesis of international circus styles built around its own central theme and storyline.

Victoria Zherdeva is an acrobatic gymnast from Ukraine who grew up dreaming of performing with Cirque du Soleil. Four years ago Zherdeva and her husband videotaped their routine and sent it to the troupe. She says, "We lost our hope. All of a sudden, we received the offer. First, we didn't believe it and thought it didn't mean anything."

Carmen Ruest ("Rue") was one of the original street performers who helped start Cirque du Soleil. She is now the artistic director of "Saltimbanco" and explains how the circus develops new talent. "We take other disciplines that they got with their sports, their skills, we take that and we adapt with artistic training," she said.

Taisiya and Ruslana Bazaliy are 21-year-old twin sisters from Ukraine who have been performing with the circus since they were 14.

The fearless performers enjoy performing their breath-taking stunts in front of a live audience.

Both say, "We are not afraid. Viewers, yes, they are scared. It is fun for us to hear when they scream 'oh,' 'ah.'

The Cirque du Soleil shows continue to pack venues around the world, inspiring young performers to dream of becoming tomorrow's stars.