Courtesy of 'Cirque de la Symphonie.'
Bill Allen said he believes there is something elegant about the mix of music and visual art.
Allen serves as executive director and producer of “Cirque de la Symphonie,” a stand-alone company arriving at the Ohio Theatre Saturday at 8 p.m. The performance is slated to feature the Columbus Symphony and world-renowned aerialists, contortionists and acrobats.
“Cirque” is a distinct blend of circus artistry and symphony orchestra. It includes music from famous composers while demonstrating the acrobatics of international athletes.
“Jaws will drop,” Allen said. “The difference with our program is that while the costumes are elegant and beautiful and there are amazing acrobatic feats, we don’t try to do something that basically leaves the audience feeling like they can’t wait to figure out if the person will get through the act or not.”
The athletes featured in “Cirque” include Alexander Streltsov, winner of the “Festival Mondial Du Cirque De L’Avenir” in Paris at age 12, Christine Van Loo, a Female Olympic Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Decade in acrobatic gymnastics, and Jarek and Darek, a hand-balancing duo who have performed at many NBA halftimes and in “Cirque du Soleil.”
Allen also serves as the artistic director and said he spends about 80 percent of his time planning music and collaborating with the conductors to come up with a program that works for them and other artists.
“Cirque” includes a mix of music from Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Johann Sebastian Bach and others. But in these composers’ pieces, such as Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake Waltz,” in which the aerial ballet is suspended from the air with silk fabrics, the music is to be taken to a whole new level for the audience, Allen said.
“Success is built around the flow of the program and you feel really good about what you’ve heard and don’t really know why,” he said. “Some people have even asked for a soundtrack, and that’s when we know we have done our job really well.”
Allen drew inspiration for “Cirque” from seeing the Moscow Circus in the early 1990s with Streltsov. Both were impressed with the professionalism of the athletes and administration and the high levels of artistry they had developed. Allen wanted circus artistry to be recognized at a prime arts level, and he thought by adding it to classical music, the choreography would become more sophisticated.
“It was not until I got a call from a conductor asking to develop a program specifically for a symphony orchestra that the idea came to set up a program based on providing cirque artists with a symphony orchestra,” Allen said.
Rolanda Copley, publicist at Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA), agreed that the audience will be captivated by “Cirque,” as it has been in the past few years.
“‘Cirque de la Symphonie’ has always been popular with Columbus audiences,” Copley said in an email. “It’s a celebration of beauty, both visible and audible, and presents a fantastic level of accessibility for the new classical concertgoer.”
Beth Cymanski, a second-year in mechanical engineering, said he’s interested in seeing what “Cirque” would be like.
“I think it’d be really cool,” Cymanski said. “I’ve seen ads but not an actual performance. I’d definitely like to see something like it at Ohio State.”
Allen assures, however, that there will be a proper balance between the symphony orchestra and aerial performers. The performers are there not to overshadow but to enhance the power of the music. The orchestra even has chances to play music on their own and highlight certain instruments without the visual effects.
“The glue that holds everything together is the music,” Allen said. “It’s not just the orchestra playing in the background, it’s a true collaboration. And if they do the job correctly then the symphony is just as big a focus as the artists.”
Tickets range from $25 to $70 and are available through Ticketmaster. The Ohio Theatre is located at 39 E. State St.