Cirque de la Symphonie

Dates and Venue 16 - 17 April | Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

Reviewer Olivia Bevan

The Orpheum brimmed at capacity and the excitable chatter among old and young only added to the intrigue of what was billed as an evening of original talent, unique adaptations and professional choreography. This alone was exciting enough, but what I hadn’t expected was to have to physically shut my jaw after several notable performances. Closer inspection revealed I wasn’t the only one left so astounded.

The incredible reputation of the Cirque du Soleil (or “Cirque” as I’ve heard it said casually by those in the know) was evident by the large crowd drawn here tonight. But this wasn’t your usual performance. Instead, Cirque de la Symphonie (a smaller group associated with the original Cirque) has developed truly amazing choreography and acrobat feats performed in perfect timing to such popular classical tunes such as Ravel’s Bolero, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Khachaturian’s Masquerade: Valse.

On stage we were watching the very best—be they musicians or members of Cirque. As aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers, and strongmen captivated the audience, it was obvious that the natural combination of these two arts forms provided new dimensions that only enhanced one another. At times the Symphony Orchestra held centre stage. At other times, they took a back seat. But neither would have felt quite tonight right without the other.

The selection of music was fittingly uplifting, spirited, boisterous and playful. It was about having fun and being adventurous. The tone of which was set from the very start with the much recognized Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, Op. 92, followed by pieces including Bizet’s Carmen Suite 2 and 1, Smetanta’s Bartered Bride and Saint-Saens’ Samson et Delilah: Danse Bacchanale.

During this first half we were left in awe by something as straight-forward as a man spinning a large metal cube frame (which is absolutely not as simple as it seems) and were mesmerized by a woman clad in white who performed as if physical bone structure was no object while she casually contorted her body in to mind-boggling positions. No circus is complete without a clown though and his ever-present antics kept us smiling whenever he appeared on stage (he even turned an impressive juggling trick or two of his own).

Following the intermission, more popular classics were heard including Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (to which the conductor was literally roped in to an on-stage performance) and Chabrier’s Espana: Rhapsody for Orchestra.

Performers so far had danced, swept and swooped their way across the stage using materials such as hoops, ribbon or crimson cloth hung from the ceiling, but by far the best performance had been saved until last. To the tune of Ravel’s Bolero, two acrobatic, bronzed (and scantily clad) strongmen climbed on to the box on centre stage to perform moves that left the audience audibly gasping. From one-handed handstands on top of the one another’s head to balancing at almost impossible angles, their fluid control and perfect precision caused audience members to swoon with admiration. As they clambered down from their box the audience rushed to their feet with rapturous applause celebrating not just them (although they were incredible) but the entire selection of performers on stage who, in turn, humbly admired one another.

As we shuffled out of the theatre it seemed everyone tonight (even those on stage) left with a feeling of having been part of something really quite special. Sometimes magic does happen.

© 2010 Olivia Bevan