Ethiopian acrobatic artists Ephrem Fekade and Legese Aba joined the cast of Cirque du Soleil’s epic spectacular at MGM Grand in the fall, traveling across the globe to fulfill their dreams of performing in one of the world’s most prestigious productions. They are one duo in a small group that makes up the dazzling Icarian Games act, an astounding display sometimes described as “foot juggling.” It fits snugly in the opening sequence of , and Fekade and Aba are finding Las Vegas just as comfortable and welcoming as their new Cirque gig.

How long have you been performing together?

Fekade: We worked in the same school and lived in the same city for more than 17 years together.

Aba: We were very young; we started at circus school and did other stuff, juggling and acrobatics, and he was a champion gymnast. We started doing Icarian Games 10 years ago.

Did you always want to be performers?

Aba: I started when I was 13 and after that, I knew I wanted to do it. I didn’t think of anything else when I was a kid. As soon as I saw this, I liked it.

How did you end up with Cirque du Soleil?

Aba: It was our dream to perform with Cirque du Soleil. When we were younger, we would look at Cirque (show) videos and they were so interesting. We got this chance when Cirque came to do auditions in our country.

Fekade: It wasn’t just us; there were hundreds of others. Once we applied, we met the others who made it to the finals and came (to Las Vegas).

So you had never seen a Cirque show live before the auditions?

Aba: We didn’t get a chance. There was one (touring) in Europe, but we didn’t have the opportunity because we had our own shows to do.

Fekade: We didn’t want to see it, we wanted to be in it!

How challenging has it been to get used to life in Las Vegas and the schedule and flow of the show?

Aba: It was very different, sort of an upgrade with all the makeup and (production elements) that go into the show. I’m just grateful I’ve been able to do this. It was a lot to take in, but it was worth it.

Fekade: Everyone with the show from the stage managers to the artists are a really tight-knit family and that pushed us to be more open and free with what we do in the act. We are not restricted to doing one thing or another; we’re not stuck on one thing. The people here have helped us become better artists, and that motivates us every day to keep pushing.

What did it feel like to step on that stage for the first time?

Fekade: It’s a lot of emotions. It’s like a dream and also feels anxious and scary and exciting.

Aba: It was more than a dream. I loved it.