Hoop divers Devin and Marta Henderson, brother and sister from San Francisco, are in the cast of “Luzia.” (Courtesy Matt Beard)

SF siblings soar to Cirque du Soleil heights

At first, San Francisco-bred sibling acrobats Devin and Marta Henderson weren’t so sure about the bird costumes they wear in Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia.”

“We’re used to diving through hoops in clothes that stay close to the skin,” says Devin, 26, mentioning how feathers and other accoutrements add as many as 10 pounds – something to which they adjusted.

“The creative process was very interesting,” adds Marta, 25.

While the designers of “Luzia,” which opens in The City this week, offered up what seemed like a crazy idea, the performers, who have as many as eight costume changes, came to an agreement and were able to “make it happen.”

At first it seemed random, says Marta, but then realized that birds are symbolic, and are reincarnated warriors in “Luzia’s” setting, mythological Mexico.

The Mexico theme resonates for the Hendersons, who grew up in Noe Valley, next to the Mission, and are working together professionally for the first time in “Luzia.”

They’ve been doing circus stunts – hoop diving and Chinese pole — since they were 4 or 5, following their older brother Bradley. They say they sprouted from roots The City’s rich circus tradition, the Pickle Family Circus and Circus Center.

Devin’s big professional break came with the Montreal-based company Les 7 Doigts de la Main (Seven Fingers); Marta and her local acrobatic partner Dominic Cruz performed in Montreal’s Cirque Eloize.

Though both honed their skills attending the National Circus School of Montreal, the Hendersons credit their success (and that of local colleagues) to their Circus Center teacher Master Lu Yi, an acrobat himself (handstands and tumbling his specialty) and former artistic director of China’s Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe.

“Everyone from San Francisco who is performing owes everything to Mr. Lu Yi, he’s the reason we’re doing circus,” says Devin.

In his mid-70s, he lives in Berkeley, is still teaching and will make it out to see his former students in “Luzia.”

“We’ll be getting him a ticket for sure,” says Marta.

Though at first it felt “unreal” to be part of a show as big as Cirque du Soleil (“It’s like Google in Silicon Valley,” they say), the siblings are enjoying “getting taken care of,” performing in front of loving audiences who reward them with standing ovations every performance and the stability of a two-year contract.

After it’s over, Marta looks forward to more professional experiences around the world, while Devon hopes to get “enough money together” to have a home base and “keep circus alive in San Francisco.”

IF YOU GO
Luzia Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Where: Big Top, Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. most Fridays-Saturdays, plus Dec. 21-22, Dec. 28-29; 1:30 and 5 p.m. most Sundays; closes Jan. 29
Tickets: $55 to $310
Contact: www.cirquedusoleil.com

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