Bodies act as instruments in Cirque de la Symphonie, coming to Wichita

01/24/2014 3:27 PM

08/06/2014 9:41 AM

While swinging from a long red aerial silk, Alexander Streltsov feels at ease. Since age 12, this award-winning Moscow native has performed around the world in a mix of theatrics and gymnastics. This week, Streltsov and other cirque performers will work alongside the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and present Cirque de la Symphonie, a mix of aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, strongmen and jugglers who perform to classical and popular music.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Daniel Hege, the company’s music director and conductor. ”The performers accentuate the music with their moves. One art form complements the other.”

The symphony is offering three performances. The first on Friday evening is a blue jeans concert in which everyone is encouraged to wear jeans – the conductor and members of the orchestra, as well as the audience.

During Cirque de la Symphonie, world-class acrobats will swing between the symphony and the audience from aerial silks while the orchestra performs Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Offenbach and Strauss. Onstage, one and two at a time, gymnasts and cirque artists perform elegant, sometimes death-defying feats without a net. Using their bodies as instruments, the performers treat the audience to a well-choreographed visual and aural treat.

“I do ballet in the air,” Streltsov said about his routine. Streltsov, the son of two aerial acrobats, has performed at the Kremlin, the Russian Palace and on Broadway. “I get to fly out into the audience. We are the ‘eye candy’ and enhance the musical experience with the cirque elements.”

Vitalii Buza, like Streltsov, began gymnastics as a child. By 16, he was a professional acrobat at the Moscow State Circus. A native of the Republic of Moldova, Buza feels at home in the air, in a spinning cube and on the Russian balance bar.

Buza also enjoys working with a live orchestra. He said the musicians make the visuals even more theatrical.

“Everything’s combined,” he said. “The orchestra gives us so much.”

The music, said the show’s executive director and producer, Bill Allen, is the glue that holds the show together.

In 2005, Streltsov and Allen co-founded the theatrical venue that intertwines European circus elements with classical symphonies. Allen oversees the music and lights, while Streltsov, along with performing, is in charge of the technical aspects of the show.

“I have to make sure that everything is safe,” Streltsov said. Because the performers travel to so many diverse theaters, Streltsov said sometimes he has to scratch his head to make it work. “It’s definitely a challenge.”

With the help of dazzling lights, Allen and Streltsov use their combined talents to weave the gymnastic and circus elements with the music that the symphony performs.

“Al (Streltsov) and I both wanted to raise cirque art to a fine arts level,” Allen said. “We have been able to do that.”

Because the musicians are so integral to the performance, the conductor must serve as the rhythm keeper for all the performers.

“This show definitely lends itself to having an out-of-the-box feel,” Hege said. “It’s beautiful.”

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