Cirque de la Symphonie
Saturday: 7:30 PM – March 12, 2016, Mizner Park Amphitheater
Sponsored by Spotlight Magazine and Festival of the Arts Boca
Cirque de la Symphonie is an exciting production designed to bring the magic of cirque to the music hall. It is an elegant adaptation of some of the most amazing cirque acts performed on a stage shared with the full symphony orchestra, showcasing many of the best artists in the world. The audience is thrilled and bedazzled by aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers, and strongmen. These accomplished veterans include world record holders, gold-medal winners of international competitions, Olympians and some of the most original talent ever seen. Each performance is perfectly choreographed to classical masterpieces, raising cirque artistry to a fine arts level. Adding a stunning visual element to the concert experience, these aerialists and acrobats provide a three-dimensional entertainment extravaganza. Orchestras play with enhanced enthusiasm, while patrons marvel at the jaw-dropping spectacle of aerialists flying overhead and astonishing acrobatic feats. Fusing the power and majesty of the live orchestra with the best of cirque artistry, Cirque de la Symphonie is the only cirque company in the world that performs exclusively with symphony orchestras. Over one hundred orchestras worldwide have featured Cirque de la Symphonie in sold-out venues, adding energy and excitement to the concert experience.Join us on Facebook and explore our website for images, video, schedule, reviews, and more: www.cirquedelasymphonie.com.
Extended background of Cirque de la Symphonie:
Cirque de la Symphonie evolved from the creative ideas of Bill Allen and Alexander Streltsov. Mr. Allen, who has been involved with the entertainment business for many years, initially came up with the idea of fusing cirque or circus artists with a live orchestra performance back in the mid-nineties. During that time he was traveling extensively in Russia, and became a close confidant of administrators and performers involved with Russian Circus programs, particularly the Moscow Circus. He visited various regional circuses, acrobatic training centers, and elite ballet companies in the former Soviet Union, and he funneled talent into established programs in the United States.
Alexander Streltsov, co-founder and currently one of the artists with Cirque de la Symphonie, grew up in the circus world of Moscow. Both of his parents were performers before him, and his father became one of the directors of the Moscow Circus. Allen’s long-standing friendship with the Streltsovs helped him gain an understanding of the traditional parameters and potential opportunities associated with this age-old institution.
Alexander was considered one of the rising stars in Russia, even at the age of twelve. During that year he won the gold medal at the prestigious Festival Mondial Du Cirque De L’Avenir in Paris, before going on to star in a Broadway production. He has worked with some of the world’s greatest choreographers and producers, such as Valentin Gneushev and Pavel Brun. He has performed for Presidents Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, and his aerial feats added another dimension to performances with the Bolshoi Ballet.
Allen represented Streltsov in various theatrical tours and television programs in the U.S., and in 1998 Streltsov made his first appearance as an aerialist with a full symphony orchestra- the Cincinnati Pops with Erich Kunzel as conductor. The television special that featured the performance was shown nationally for five years, because of the strong and positive response received from audiences.
Eventually Streltsov settled in the U.S. and now resides in Atlanta. Allen, whose creative talents were constantly being summoned by various producers around the country, decided to continue to experiment with the idea of cirque and symphony. Streltsov, who knew most major cirque artists in the business, became a close confidant in expanding cirque programs offerings to symphonies. Additional concerts in Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon and other locations convinced both Allen and Streltsov that they had a successful formula with nationwide appeal. An artistic administrator cornered Allen and Streltsov following a nationally televised Fourth of July broadcast in Cincinnati, and advised them to offer this exciting program to symphonies everywhere.
With the careful selection of professional cirque artists possessing wide-ranging experience from all the major cirque programs around the world, Cirque de la Symphonie was born. Officially incorporated in 2005, the first major program was an engagement with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and conductor Michael Krajewski. After sellout crowds at Jones Hall and the Woodlands, Krajewski heard orchestra members calling this “the best pops concerts ever.” He enthusiastically endorsed the program, and sought to have it inserted in pops series with other symphonies with which he was associated.
Cirque de la Symphonie was never designed to be a distraction to the orchestra’s performance. The artistic performances were chosen to enhance the patron’s enjoyment by adding another dimension to the overall concert experience. There are rarely more than one or two performers out on stage at any given time, and the stage is never transformed into a circus program with smoke machines, confetti, and flashing laser lights. Allen sought to “raise the level” of the cirque art form to match the majesty of the symphony’s performance, achieving fines arts status for cirque artists.
The challenge of providing a full cirque program in the limited stage space shared with the orchestra, typically an area about fifteen feet downstage from the conductor’s podium, is magnified by the need to provide rigging for aerialists, special lighting needs, and other technical innovations not normally associated with a symphony concert. Streltsov, who wears the hat of technical director in addition to being one of the premiere artists, scouts each venue to make sure that the program can be accommodated, and innovative thinking is often required with some of the aging music halls around the country. The aerial acts are all propelled manually, with stage hands in the wings pulling the artists up and down through a system of pulleys and cables. This provides a more aesthetically pleasing experience, but requires extra technical preparation and rehearsal.
Music selection is a true collaboration between Allen, who functions as executive director and producer, and the music director or maestro. Generous input and advice by conductors along the way has helped Cirque de la Symphonie build an impressive repertoire, and the cirque acts are professionally choreographed to the tempo of the music, constructing a program that one critique called “cirque goes to finishing school.” With these two art forms functioning on an equal level, the results are astounding. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Audiences are mesmerized with the power and majesty of a full symphony performance, accompanied by the astonishing feats of aerialist and acrobats.
Orchestras across North America have chosen to include Cirque de la Symphonie as a premiere event of the season. Because the program is easy to plug in, it has become a favorite option for artistic directors exploring ways to energize a pops series. Most importantly, especially during a period of diminishing endowment funds, Cirque de la Symphonie almost always sells out the house. Allen feels it is important to be able to provide a cirque element to symphony programs of all sizes, whether they are one of the top five in the country, a regional program, or even a community orchestra. A range of options for a spectacular program are offered, with flexibility to address the unique priorities of each symphony.
Symphony patrons quickly realize they are witnessing something special when they attend a concert. Cirque de la Symphonie fills up the house, and audience enthusiasm bypasses standard etiquette with frequent applause and vocal expressions. Symphonies have found that Cirque de la Symphonie attracts a wave of new faces to the audience, effectively lowering the median age of concert-goers. There is an increased presence of college students, young professionals, and families.
Today Allen and Streltsov oversee a company that has expanded its range and commitments. A wealth of talented cirque artists, additional staffing, and an efficient management system have all kept Cirque de la Symphonie on firm footing. Staying loyal to the formula which brought initial success, Allen has avoided deviating into staged tours and corporate shows. As a result, symphony administrators are all buzzing about this exciting option for seasonal planning, because it has consistently been one of the top-selling programs for orchestras across North America.
The future of Cirque de la Symphonie seems secure today, with sixty orchestras booked for the current season and a full calendar already for next season. Special program variations for arenas and holiday productions include a wider range of artists and music options. International concert engagements are on-going, with mini-tours in Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia planned, as well as webcasts and television productions filmed in high definition. Today it is the only cirque company in the world that works exclusively with symphony orchestras.
There have been several evolutionary stages of the circus arts in the past few years, but perhaps no organization has done more to elevate the status of the circus to a fine arts level than Cirque de la Symphonie, which was the original intent and rationale for starting the organization. The achievements of these elite cirque artists have introduced the true elegance of cirque artistry to thousands of people who may never have been exposed to the art form, while introducing many new people to the exhilarating experience of a live symphony orchestra.