Cirque de la Symphonie still amazing in fifth Christmas show with Grand Rapids Symphony
December 17, 2014
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Christmas is nothing without tradition. The familiar stories, the beloved carols, the old decorations are the stuff of seasonal celebrations in every home.
The Grand Rapids Symphony welcomed Cirque de la Symphonie, by now a holiday tradition, back to DeVos Performance Hall on Tuesday for its fifth consecutive "Cirque de Noel" show in December.
Music director David Lockington was on the podium and, briefly, behind a magician's cloak for a bit of quick-change, hocus pocus.
The Grand Rapids Symphony played a wide range of seasonal, popular and classical favorites for the first of three shows in the orchestra's SymphonicBoom Series. Programs repeat tonight and Thursday evening.
The company of aerial artists, gymnasts, jugglers and strongmen who first appeared in Grand Rapids in 2009, and who opened the first of three shows on this date last year, never fails to delight an audience with an act for the eye that mirrors the show for the ear. Musicians playing a sweeping version of Alan Silvestri's Suite from "The Polar Express," the heroic Troika from Sergei Prokofiev's "Lt. Kije Suite," and a snazzy bit of Duke Ellington's "The Nutcracker Suite," after all, are engaging in acrobatics of their own.
Even with so many familiar faces – Vladimir Tsarkov, a mime and juggler; Christine Van Loo, who performs on aerial rope; Elena Tsarkova, a contortionist and dancer; and Jarek & Darek, a hand-balancing act – Cirque de la Symphonie still amazes viewers.
Newcomer Shana Lord had a hand – and a foot, and everything in between – in some of the most exciting moments of this year's show. She joined Christine Van Loo, a regular visitor with Cirque de la Symphonie as well as a Grand Rapids-born athlete, in a Duo Pendulum act. To highlights from Rimsky-Korsakov's exhilarating "Capriccio Espagnol," with thrilling solos by concertmaster James Crawford, flutist Christopher Kantner and clarinetist Suzanna Bratton, Lord and Van Loo spun on a large ring suspended above the stage while contorting their bodies into a bewildering array of shapes and forms that displayed grace and flexibility as well as the strength to be able to hang upside down from their toes and the nerve to be willing to even try it.
Vitalii Buza, who made his Grand Rapids debut last year, opened the cirque show with an act on aerial straps to the music of "Flight to Neverland" from the movie, "Hook." Bare-chested and broad-shouldered, Buza's act could be described in part as "Walking in the Air."
With the Cyr Wheel, a single hoop as tall as he was, Buza was spinning and rolling around the stage to the lively beat of the "Peanut Brittle Brigade" from Duke Ellington's "The Nutcracker Suite."
Tsarkov, a red harlequin clown, who juggles three hoops, then, four, five, six and, for a moment, seven hoops, was the comic relief to the lighter sounds of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride."
Contortionist Tsarkova's ability and agility to do a handstand and mimic the wings of a bird in flight with her legs was topped only by her ability to do a handstand and lift one leg over her back and touch her forehead with her toes, all to the lilting melody of "Skater's Waltz."
Together, the husband and wife team engaged in a bit of quick change that had Tsarkova change her costume no fewer than five times in the blink of an eye to the glittering sound of woodwinds in Brazilian composer Zequinha de Abreau's "Tico Tico."
Van Loo and Alexander Streltsov joined together for an aerial duo on silks to the "Waltz of the Flowers" from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," music that the Grand Rapids Symphony is playing this month with Grand Rapids Ballet's annual performance of the holiday ballet. This pas de deux in the air enveloped the couple in each other as well as in the silks for a beautifully romantic coupling.
The Polish strongmen, Jarek and Darek, who weren't part of last year's show, returned with feats of strength to the whimsical melodies of "Little Drummer Boy" arranged as a bolero a la Maurice Ravel. Seeing one execute a one-handed handstand on the other's head and then watching the lower rise from a seated position to a standing position is a mind-boggler that leaves an audience gasping.
Musically speaking Georges Bizet's Farandole from "L'Arlesienne" did much the same.