Elite cirque acrobats, aerial fliers, contortionists, dancers, jugglers and strongmen from all over the country are coming together to perform their jaw-dropping feats, above and around the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, in Cirque de la Symphonie’s Christmas-inspired “Cirque de Noel.”
Guest conductor Robert Bernhardt will be leading the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with the rare challenge of keeping the musicians, including himself, focused on the music and not on the aerialists flying above.
“It is a beautiful marriage between two great art forms to the highest degree,” said Christine Van Loo, aerialist and acrobat for Cirque de la Symphonie.
The show is one night only, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at the Saenger Theatre.
The LPO will be playing up to 20 Christmas-inspired musical selections, from Duke Ellington’s jazzy rendition of “The Nutcracker” to the music of “The Polar Express.”
“‘Cirque de Noel’ is about the Christmas season … we all have a vision of what this musicality means to us. We have grown up with a lot of this and they definitely emote something that is very specific — being with family or your first ‘Nutcracker’ ballet,” said Aloysia Gavre, aerial acrobat for Cirque de la Symphonie, who has a long history in cirque performance, including the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil.
Cirque artists choreograph the act to a preselected piece of music. Coming together with the conductor and orchestra on the day of the performance, they run through the show’s entirety, working out any kinks, particularly with tempo.
“There is a tempo with the music that makes the individual artists feel most comfortable, so the tempo that I want, or need to do, is the tempo that works best for them. I love the collaborative nature of that,” Bernhardt said.
Former Olympian Van Loo grew up in Uptown New Orleans and is returning to her hometown to perform a solo silk act and a duo flying-fabric act.
“It is like a dance in the air. It has a lot of flexibility and grace,” Van Loo said. “The aerial duo is a romantic aerial ballet: We are flying through the air, dancing. I’m courting him, and he’s courting me. It is very romantic and pretty.”
Gavre will be performing two acts: a partner-balancing act in a romantic cat-and-mouse, and an aerial act in which she spins and rotates on a hoop over the audience and orchestra.
“It is our job to make it look effortless, but it is actually very intense. We can’t be thinking about our grocery list. The mind cannot go away from this intense focus. There is this underlay of being very aware of where we are, whether it is standing on somebody’s head in a handstand or hanging by my toes,” Gavre said.
Gavre and Van Loo also play a hand in the wings offstage.
Cirque artists, when not performing onstage, help the local city’s crew with the pulley system that aids aerialists in their act, ensuring a fluid flow and pace.
“It is so beautiful when it comes together,” Gavre said. “There is never a feeling of being a soloist; you are not only working with the crew and your colleagues on stage, but you are also working with the conductor and all the musicians. We have to be in sync with each other’s timing.”
The seamless fusion of classical music and cirque enthralls the audience.
“(The artists and musicians) feed off of each other. … The beauty and excellence of the cirque performers spurs us along to great performance,” Bernhardt said.