Aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers will join the Wichita Symphony Orchestra next weekend in a holiday show. Courtesy photo
Aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers will join the Wichita Symphony Orchestra next weekend in a holiday show. Courtesy photo

Entertainment

When acrobats and symphony combine, this violinist plays suspended upside down

By David Burke

Eagle correspondent

November 22, 2017 04:47 PM

The goal of Cirque de la Symphonie, its president and managing director says, is to measure up visually with what orchestras produce for the ear.

“The concept and the whole idea is to remind the audience that we’re kind of like the eye candy, but at the same time they are coming to the music hall to hear their orchestra,” Alexander Streltsov said in a phone interview from his office in Atlanta. “We’re not here to take over. It’s a collaboration.”

After performing with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra in early 2014, Cirque de la Symphonie returns for a holiday-themed performance next weekend at Century II.

“Even though this is a holiday-type performance, the program is quite different,” Streltsov said. “There’s some holiday pieces, but there’s also a lot of light classical pieces.”

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Seven performing artists – aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers – will join the symphony, each performing multiple acts, Streltsov said. A blending of the classical and visual, he said, comes from Janice Martin, a Juilliard-trained violinists who is scheduled to perform “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and a “Nutcracker Suite” medley – while hanging upside down 15 to 20 feet above the stage.

“She’s holding the violin while she’s hanging on the silk,” Streltsov said. “It defies explanation.”

A native of Russia who has performed since age 12, Streltsov was with the company since it first formed in 2005, and retired from performing last December.

“When we created this concept, I just thought it was a good idea and something new for the audience,” he said. “What really pleased me was to find out was that we were doing something for the symphony world as well, to help them recruit younger faces into the audience. Obviously it’s a very important thing for the modern age.”

Each Cirque performer, he said, has several different musical options for each of the visual performances.

While Cirque de la Symphonie has put a classical-music bend to the wave of performers first inspired by Cirque du Soleil, not all performances translate well to music, Streltsov said.

“It is very important to me that we keep the quality,” he said. “The performers we have in the show are consummate professionals who have been doing this for many, many years. The key element, what makes it really work, is the musical ear.

“Some of the artists are not capable of performing to certain pieces of music because they don’t have the musical ear. The choreography, and working with the music, makes it so special. Otherwise, it’s like you’re working with background music,” Streltsov added. “This is not what we’re about.”

Safety, Streltsov said, is the top priority of the group. In its 12 years of existence, there have been no accidents or injuries, he said.

“Most of the music halls are not built for this type of entertainment,” he said. “You have to be very creative to make it work and make it a safe environment for everybody, including the audience members and the musicians, as well as the performers.”

Traditional Cirque acts don’t always work in the symphony setting, Streltsov added.

“I don’t care how good you are, once in a blue moon something happens as things are flying around,” he said. “We don’t really have any room for errors.”

Wichita Symphony Orchestra featuring Cirque de la Symphonie

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3

Where: Century II concert hall, 225 W. Douglas

Tickets: $28-$73, from wichitasymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or at the symphony box office.