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Acrobats Go Allegro 

The familiar summons "Come one, come all!" calls to mind the many fantastical characters typically seen in a big-top tent. After all, it's the time-honored salutation of the circus, traditionally shouted by a mustachioed ringmaster donning a top hat and tails. Centuries after the advent of the circus, that all-inclusive sentiment still rings true, even if the ringmaster has, in this case, been replaced by an orchestra conductor -- who still, incidentally, dresses in tails.

click to enlarge It isn't just acrobatics, as demonstrated by Alexander Streltsov's mind-and-light-bending performance demonstrates.  - COURTESY OF INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Courtesy of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
  • It isn't just acrobatics, as demonstrated by Alexander Streltsov's mind-and-light-bending performance demonstrates.

This week, a troupe of world-class cirque performers -- aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen -- will descend upon Hilbert Circle Theatre to perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, offering up the prospect of spectacular displays of athleticism and grace set against a breathtaking gamut of orchestral music, ranging from Leonard Bernstein to Tchaikovsky. It's Cirque de la Symphonie, taking Indianapolis by storm for three days, enchanting and enthralling both young and old.

ISO Conductor Jack Everly calls Cirque de la Symphonie "a great opportunity for audiences" because the pairing of outstanding music and first-rate cirque performers is "a very rare and popular combination."

"It's extremely entertaining, I must say," he divulges, and even that, by all accounts, is an understatement.

Cirque de la Symphonie features a spellbinding troupe of over half a dozen talented acrobats, including aerialist Christine Van Loo, a seven-time consecutive National Champion whose full list of accolades is far too lengthy to list here. Suffice it to say that she's comfortable on the big stage, whether that stage is at the Grammy Awards or the Olympics. And why shouldn't she be? She's been dreaming of flying almost as long as she can remember.

"I've felt drawn to the air ever since I was a little kid," she recalls. "I used to jump off porches and chairs and tables, flapping my wings, and no matter what anyone said about a little thing called gravity, I didn't care.

"My parents placed me in acrobatic gymnastics when I was 8 years old because I was hyperactive. It was either acrobatics or Ritalin," she says laughing.

Acrobats and musical notes soaring together can make for quite the evening.  - COURTESY OF INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Courtesy of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
  • Acrobats and musical notes soaring together can make for quite the evening.

Years later, not much has changed. Van Loo is still more at ease in the air than on the ground.

"I feel very nervous when I'm standing in the wings waiting to go on, totally nervous, but when I step onto the stage, I feel calm. I just feel like I belong in the air," she says.

You might imagine that for someone whose resume includes the 2002 Winter Olympics and a European tour with Paul McCartney, a performance in Indianapolis would be barely a blip on the radar. But that couldn't be further from truth.

click to enlarge Cirque de la Symphonie performed with the ISO in 2011, but even if you caught the show then, this week's performance promises new surprises for audiences.  - COURTESY OF INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Courtesy of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
  • Cirque de la Symphonie performed with the ISO in 2011, but even if you caught the show then, this week's performance promises new surprises for audiences.

"I feel like performing with a live symphony orchestra is the epitome of performance," Van Loo says, "because it's such a beautiful marriage between the two art forms. It is one thing to perform to recorded music but an entirely different thing to feel the music resounding through your body from an entire symphony orchestra beneath you. I feel like I become one of the instruments."

Cirque de la Symphonie performed with the ISO in 2011, but even if you caught the show then, don't assume there's nothing left to see. Cirque de la Symphonie is not a cookie cutter performance. The show is constantly evolving and changes even from week to week. Many factors affect what acts the troupe presents at any given location, including the music that the orchestra and troupe's producer decide to use. In fact, at the time of this interview, Van Loo didn't even know which stunts she'd be performing at Hilbert Circle Theatre.

She also echoes Everly's sentiments that this show is one for absolutely everybody.

"It's perfectly suited for any age group," she says. "Children love it, adults love it; anybody can go and just fall in love with this show. It's a great show, and we're so proud of it."

Cirque de la Symphonie will be performing with the ISO May 30-31 and June 1. That means you have four chances to snap up seats for one of the hottest tickets of the year. Whether you're a longtime symphony patron or have never set foot in Hilbert Circle Theatre, consider this a must-see marquee event. It's got all the ingredients needed for a thrilling night filled with oohs and aahs -- everything except maybe the bearded lady.

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Emily Hinkel

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Emily is happiest when she's knee-deep in the written word. She is wholeheartedly nursing her fledgling freelance writing career and is delighted to be on this side of the pen. Emily shares her living space with a bossy Dalmatian and many, many books.

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