Cirque de la Symphonie joins Waco Symphony Orchestra for final performance of season

Vladimir Tsarkov keeps the audience laughing, but his juggling and mine feats are no joke. Tsarkov, a member of the Cirque de la Symphonie, performed with the Waco Symphony Orchestra on Thursday evening in Waco Hall. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Didi Martinez | Digital Managing Editor

Waco Hall transformed into a space of wonders Thursday evening as performers shimmied between aerial fabric strips and contortionists hoisted themselves up to the sound of familiar cinematic melodies.

In its last concert of the 2017-2018 season, the Waco Symphony Orchestra partnered with the Cirque de la Symphonie, a group of aerial gymnasts, jugglers, balancers, acrobats and contortionists who choreograph stunts to music.

The “pops,” or contemporary concerts, are traditionally among the most popular types of performances that the symphony offers, adding an element of familiarity to concert-goers before they even step foot into the performance hall. This year, symphony concert director and conductor Stephen Heyde said he had a feeling people would enjoy the show.

“People are intrigued by the cinema element and the chance to see cirque with music,” Heyde said. “[These are] themes that everybody has heard and and here we are going to really put it to the forefront.”

Heyde is also the Mary Franks Thompson Professor of Orchestral Studies and the conductor-in-residence at Baylor University.

The crowd was mesmerized by the first act performed by seven-time National Champion acrobatic gymnast Christina Van Loo, who weaved in and out between purple aerial fabric strips to the sounds of Michael Legrand’s “The Summer Knows.” The performer climbed high above the stage and executed carefully calculated drops as the audience gasped with every fall. Van Loo, of course, had practiced this many times before, but this didn’t stop the woman next to me from exclaiming, “Oh, my!” with every dip.

Before the concert, the audience was notified that they would be able to clap throughout the event if they liked what they were seeing –– and hearing.

And clap they did, especially during the symphony’s rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” At this point in the performance, contortionist Alexandra Pivaral lifted her body between metal beams with two hands, then one, to the musical build of the “Titanic” theme.

This performance was indeed a crowd-pleaser as concert-goer Linda Ferrell said it had been a memorable act for her.

“I’m loving it,” Ferrell said. “It’s the first time I’ve been to the symphony in, I don’t know, maybe 20 years.”

Instant costume changes to selections from “Chicago” and juggling acts to the “Devil’s Dance” from the “Witches of Eastwick” were among the many other acts that inspired laughs as the concert finally came to a close with a John Kander reprise of the song, “New York, New York.”

While the Waco Orchestra Symphony may be done for the season, the Cirque de la Symphonie will be making one final Texas stop in Irving on Saturday before heading to Winnipeg, Canada and then across the ocean to perform in Lampur, Malaysia.