The Rapidian

Cirque stars celebrate the season in Grand Rapids Symphony's Cirque de Noel

Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, aerial artists and more join Grand Rapids Symphony for Cirque de la Symphonie's 10th annual appearance.
Cirque de la Symphonie's company of acrobats and aerial artists join the Grand Rapids Symphony for Cirque de Noel.

Cirque de la Symphonie's company of acrobats and aerial artists join the Grand Rapids Symphony for Cirque de Noel. /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

Cirque de Noel with the Grand Rapids Symphony is a West Michigan tradition dating back a decade.

Cirque de Noel with the Grand Rapids Symphony is a West Michigan tradition dating back a decade. /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

Contortionists, jugglers and more perform Dec. 19-20 in DeVos Performance Hall.

Contortionists, jugglers and more perform Dec. 19-20 in DeVos Performance Hall. /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

Cirque de Noel with the Grand Rapids Symphony

Twinkling lights on evergreen trees with presents all around. Sleigh rides on new-fallen snow, partridges in pear trees, surrounded by ladies dancing while pipers pipe and drummers drum.

When you think about it, Christmas not only is the most wonderful time of year, it’s the most visual, too.

Everyone loves music at Christmas, but the Grand Rapids Symphony’s annual Old National Bank Cirque de Noël gives you plenty to look at as well.

Cirque de la Symphonie, a company of acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and aerial artists, will make merry with amazing feats of agility and strength, accompanied by beloved Christmas songs and classical favorites.

Shows in the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Gerber Symphonic Boom series are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 19-20. Tickets start at $32.

“It’s inspired by the elegance of winter,” said Aloysia Gavre, an aerial hoop artist, in an interview with The Grand Rapids Press in 2013. “It's about celebrating as a family and as couples to enjoy the season together.”

Acts include aerial artists Vitalii Buza and Ekaterina Borzikova performing above the DeVos Hall stage while the Grand Rapids Symphony plays the “Waltz of the Flowers” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

Audience favorites Vladimir Tsarkov, a juggler and mime, and Elena Tsarkova, a contortionist, husband and wife, both return to DeVos Hall for the show.

Associate Conductor John Varineau leads the Grand Rapids Pops in familiar melodies such as Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival, Franz Schubert’s Ava Maria, and Duke Ellington’s “Peanut Brittle Brigade” from The Nutcracker Suite.

“It really starts with the music,” said Aloysia Gavre, the company’s principal choreographer. “The shows always are built from the musical choices, and the acts and choreography flow from there.”

European-style cirque acts, also known as “le nouveau cirque” or contemporary circus, differ from American circuses with animal acts and slapstick clowns performing under a big top tent.

Cirque artists are athletes trained to perform in theatrical settings.

Cirque de la Symphonie takes cirque one step forward by performing exclusively with symphony orchestras.

"The choreography and the music is what makes it interesting,” said company co-director Alexander Streltsov in 2011. “When it's right, you feel like the music was written for them.”

It's safe to say you can call Cirque de Noël a holiday tradition in West Michigan. Since 2009, Cirque de la Symphonie has visited Grand Rapids every year to share the stage with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

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