Circus acts are always a huge draw all over the world but when they are performed in a philharmonic hall, they become a fine spectacle.
Last weekend saw a collaboration between the United States-based Cirque De La Symphonie and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) in a production designed to bring the magic of circus to the concert hall.
The circus-inspired performance – synchronised to classical masterpieces and contemporary tunes played by a live orchestra – included aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen.
The talented group of seven, mostly of Russian heritage, comprised former Olympians, world record holders and gold medal winners of international competitions.
Marking its sophomore outing in Malaysia, Cirque De La Symphonie added much energy and vigour to enhance the whole concert experience. There were jaw-dropping moments, gravity-challenging feats as well as humour and artistry in the air.
Under the batonship of conductor Gerard Salonga, who encouraged the audience to throw concert etiquette aside for the night and “clap when you feel like it”, MPO’s repertoire included Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 – Italian: 4th Movement, Khachaturian’s ballet score from Gayaneh, Bizet’s Carmen Suite, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, themes from Mission: Impossible and Superman, and a touch of South American flavours.
Once the orchestra kicked off the night with Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, Christine Van Loo came on to do an aerial solo on silk. Not quite gasp-inducing, she proceeded rather cautiously with the tricks, acting more like a warm-up for things to come.
Clown Vladimir Tsarkov provided a captivating performance with his blend of mime and juggling feats, bringing laughter to the audience. Whether he purposely dropped one or two hoops and electric batons during the show, or whether it was part of the act, it was entertaining nevertheless.
The stocky Vitalii Buza impressed with his spinning cube and Cyr wheel. As the MPO played Mission: Impossible to accompany him, our hearts pounded away as he precariously balanced and spun his way around the confined space.
When Alexandra Pivaral walked on stage with her hula hoop, there were hushed whispers all around as she was a bit on the meatier side. But, the moment she started her act, there were only whispers of awe as she displayed extreme dexterity, strength and flexibility on the hula hoops and candlestick. Yes, she indeed took our breaths away with her effortless transitions.
Born to acrobatic parents, the 24-year-old contortionist started training at eight and has headlined countless productions since, including performing with the renowned Cirque Du Soleil on Zarkana and Iris.
There were other moments of highs: a “flying” man soaring through the air on straps while doing acrobatic manoeuvres; the quick change costume lady; and the aerial duet by Buza and Van Loo, combining strength and elegance in a compelling exhibition of partnership and control. She was more poised and confident in this act.
Cirque De La Symphonie traditionally ends its shows with a strongman act.
Pavel Korshunov and Vitaliy Prikhodko, with their perfectly sculpted bodies painted in bronze, mesmerised the audience with a stunning display of strength and balance in slow-motion, taken a notch up by MPO’s rendition of Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia. The duo’s signature move of balancing on one hand while on the other’s head drew wild applause.
If you missed this performance, make it a point to catch the group the next time they’re in town. It’s worth every sen.