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Perfection is backstage at Cirque Du Soleil

  • Story Highlights
  • Cirque Du Soleil's "Kooza" went looking for juggler with 11 world records
  • Anthony Gatto beat actor Patrick Dempsey in juggling competition
  • Gatto practices six to seven hours to prepare for 10 minutes on stage
  • Says humidity and wind can affect his routine
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By Reggie Aqui
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(CNN) -- Do not go backstage at Cirque Du Soleil. It will only hurt your self-esteem.

Gatto joined Cirque du Soleil in 2007 and has experimented with his character, the Cirque Web site says.

Anthony Gatto says he's been in training since he was 3 years old and performing since he was 8.

In the performers' tent for the touring show "Kooza," there are the chiseled men catapulting their partners onto each other's shoulders from a giant see-saw and the woman doing contortions on children's-sized blocks.

You can only take so much of this before your ego needs normal.

Normal might be that man in the corner, wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sneakers throwing balls in the air. How hard can that be?

Your self-worth will be quickly dashed again when the man picks up a soccer ball, bounces it on his head and jumps rope at the same time. Moments later, he's juggling six or seven orange rings (they move so fast, it looks like a blur) and then does a pirouette -- while all the rings are in the air -- and then catches them on his arm. Video Watch the juggler in action »

You could say Anthony Gatto went into the family business. But his stepfather wasn't a farmer or a doctor. He was a juggler.

"By the time I was 8, I was entered into a juggling competition, and incidentally, that was the same competition that Patrick Dempsey, the actor, was in," Gatto said. "He used to be a juggler. We competed against each other. I took first, he took second. Now he's a big actor and here I am, juggling."

Gatto is being modest. In fact, he didn't audition for "Kooza." The show went looking for him.

"I have right now 11 juggling world records," he said. "Some of them I've held since I was 16 years old and they have yet to be beaten."

Imagine a wearable disco ball. That's not too different from the form-fitting outfit Gatto wears onstage. Backstage, it's a long-sleeve T-shirt, gym shorts and sneakers.

But there's nothing casual about his daily routine. He typically works out and practices six to seven hours a day to prepare for his 10 minutes in the spotlight. In fact, he is practicing until moments before he runs on stage.

"Juggling is something that is so delicate, you have to have a really good feel, you can lose that in minutes," he said. "There are so many variables that can affect you. If it's a humid day, it's a very difficult task to get through the number that I do. The wind, if there's any air current in there and you're expecting to catch a ring and it blows an inch, you miss it."

But he rarely misses -- at least not in his act. This performer, who relies on coordination and concentration 350 shows a year, admits his most embarrassing moment has nothing to do with balls, clubs or rings. It's acting that trips him up.


"I have fallen as the delivery-man character in the show. In fact, I have done this a few times," he said. "I like to think it's because I put my heart and soul into the characters I'm portraying."

Surrounded by all this talent and precision, there is some comfort in knowing one of the best -- maybe the best juggler in the world -- is also a klutz.

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