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Juggling Work, Family


What began as a childhood game among three brothers now dazzles audiences in Varekai, the Cirque du Soleil show currently under the big top at Harbor Point.

Javier Santos began learning the ancient art of foot-juggling from circus-performing family members when he was 5 years old, and was soon able to balance balls and chairs with his feet. As a teenager, the list of airborne objects expanded to include his 3-year-old twin brothers, Ramon and Pedro, who entertained themselves by jumping on Javier's feet.

The friendly horseplay turned into serious study when their father, Pedro, learned the art of Icarian games by watching videotapes of other foot jugglers. He has been their coach ever since.

During the 12 years since their act's debut, Javier, 28, has perfected his role as a launching pad for his 19-year-old brothers. Ramon somersaults above Javier and lands on the soles of his feet, while Pedro performs intricate twist combinations when Javier's feet catapult him across the stage.

The Santoses, originally from Madrid, follow in the footsteps of seven generations of circus performers and have taken their act all over the world, never staying in one place for more than a month. But traveling together makes it easier to bear.

"I've spent my whole life with my family," Ramon said. "I wouldn't want it any other way."

-- Kim Hart

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil's Varekai continues at Harbor Point, at Thames and Lancaster streets in Fells Point, through next Sunday. Tickets are $46-$75; call 800-678-5440.

Online: To view more photos of the Santos brothers, go to / cirque

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