Q&A with Cirque de la Symphonie
Fanfare Cincinnati: What was the inspiration for combining cirque performers with a live orchestra concert?
Cirque de la Symphonie: The initial concept began right here in Cincinnati! The company was founded in 2005 with the vision of elevating cirque artistry to a fine arts level. Alexander Streltsov, who comes from a Russian circus family, had experienced many years of global fame as an aerial performer in February 1998, he shared the stage with the Cincinnati Pops for a nationally televised PBS special , Love is in the Air, performing with founding Cincinnati Pops Conductor Erich Kunzel. The success and popularity of that program led to more collaborations with the Pops and with other orchestras across the country.
FC: What careers did some of your performers have before joining Cirque de la Symphonie?
CS: All the artists are consummate professionals and veterans of well-known circus and related entertain- ment productions. Many started athletic training at an early age as members of renowned circus families. They have spent years perfecting their skills, and performers include Olympians, gold medal winners and national champions who all now love performing to the power of a live symphony orchestra.
FC: Describe the training and preparation leading up to a performance. What role does music play in that training and preparation?
CS: The choice of music is the most important decision for the program. Cirque de la Symphonie provides options but works closely with the music director, conductor, librarian and other staff through every step, to design and carry out a program that is unique to that orchestra's characteristics and needs. The artists work hard to choreograph their acts in advance to create that perfect blend of fluid acrobatic movements that complement the music, be it classical, contemporary, cinema, holiday, etc.
FC: What path would you recommend for any aspiring cirque performers in the audience?
CS: Most cirque artists have gymnastics training, as it provides the fundamental skills for stage acrobatics and aerial work. There are several other sports lead-ins to the cirque world—many of the Cirque de la Symphonie artists competed at the national and international level before adapting their skills to the entertainment business. Others discover they have the precision needed to be a juggler or the skills to perform as a mime. One of our performers is a violinist and Juilliard School graduate who transformed herself into an aerialist, playing pieces by Vivaldi and others as she hands upside down 40 feet in the air. It's a matter of focusing on talent and skills that work in a limited stage area. And, of course, music is the glue that holds these two art forms—cirque and symphony—together.
—Diana Maria Lara