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Fox Valley Symphony, circus actors a great partnership

Mar. 5, 2011

Circus and Symphony? No. Circus and Symphony!

For a fun thrilled evening, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center was turned into the magic of the circus Saturday complete with strongmen, aerialists, and other acts accompanied to familiar light classics masterfully performed by the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Cirque de la Symphonie is a troupe of circus actors that has been fascinating concert goers in recent years. It is a wonderful blending of artistry and acrobatics, a synthesis of two great art forms with a long tradition.

Set to the music of Khachaturian, Bizet, Dvorak, Saint-Saens, and Shostakovich, artists of the cirque came alive on the stage.

The audience was first introduced to juggler Vladimir Tsarkov who performed in mime while dressed in a red harlequin costume. As expected, his facial expressions won over the crowd, all the while tossing rings and pins.

Equally exciting was "The Lady in White" whose balancing, twisting, and other gymnastic maneuvers brought gasps and applause from the audience.

Aerial acts included those on using the silks, and a rope, which kept those in attendance enraptured as one daring move after another took place.

Mixed in with these acts were orchestral performances of concert favorites. I used the term "light" classics, but for the musicians, these pieces are no "light" task to play as many notes, and most of them fast, abound.

It was interesting hearing a symphony orchestra replace the circus band of the Big Top.

Dvorak's Carnival Overture opened the program with its joyously festive strains. The orchestra was up for the task, and was carefully attentive to Maestro Brian Groner's gestures and nuances. The same was true for their next featured work, another piece by Dvorak, his Slavonic Dance in B-flat.

Other featured works for the orchestra were Chabrier's exciting Rhapsody from "EspaƱa", Glinka's Overture from "Russian and Lyudmila" and Tchaikovsky's ever popular Valse from "Sleeping Beauty."

The highlight of the evening, however, was the Strong Men and their choreographed performance using the climactic final movement of Shostakovich's powerful Symphony No. 5.

Powerful is the operative word here. Costumed in gold paint and portraying themselves as sculptures, their compelling movements and displays of human strength held the audience captive as each display was more demanding than the one prior. Truly, this was a tour-de-force for both the artists and the musicians.

Let us hope that we see this troupe of performers in our town again.

- James Chaudoir for the Post Crescent

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