For the second entry in its 2012-13 season, East Texas Symphony Orchestra will join with Cirque de la Symphonie to bring an evening of classical music blended with the unique style of cirque performers.
It’s a show that Bill Allen, producer and executive director of Cirque de la Symphonie, all but guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind concert event.
It’s unlike anything they’ve ever experienced with a symphony, that’s for sure,” Allen said. “We are the only cirque company in the world that works exclusively with symphony orchestras.”
Allen said that while other cirque shows simply incorporate music as a background accompaniment, Cirque de la Symphonie is all about creating synergy between the musicians and the acrobats.
“The music is really the glue that holds the program together as a fusion between these two ancient art forms,” he said. “The concept of our program is fashioned after the European version of a circus. It’s very theatrical, very high-end, very elegant and, to tell you the truth, from Day One our goal has been to raise cirque artistry to a fine arts level, and we think we have to a large degree.”
While most symphony orchestra musicians are likely not used to having acrobats soar over their heads or contortionists dance in front of them, Allen said the program flows naturally and takes very little adjustment for the musicians.
“We don’t really need rehearsals so much because all of our artists are consummate professionals and they’ve already choreographed to the music well in advance. It’s nice to be able to check timing and tempos and that sort of thing, get the stage hands acclimated, but mostly it’s for the orchestra to get used to what’s going on downstage,” Allen said.
“We only use about 15 feet of space from the podium to the lip of the stage, so we’re really close to them and sometimes the first violin doesn’t know what to do. They’re trying to look at the conductor but all of this is going on so close to the podium. But they all seem to enjoy it and the orchestras seem to play with a little extra enthusiasm with the acrobats doing their thing downstage.”
And while they share the term “cirque,” Allen said Cirque de la Symphonie is remarkably different from Cirque du Soleil, the company that most immediately recall when thinking of a cirque act. For one, he said, their act isn’t as flamboyant and it’s also much more focused on individual artists and performers.
Additionally, Cirque de la Symphonie performers must also be musically inclined, Allen said.
“Whenever I have a great cirque actor who wants to be a part of our program, and we have a lot of people lined up to try to work with us, I’ll ask if they have music that really interests them from a classical standpoint,” he said. “If I hear them say something like, ‘Oh, well we can work with any music, just tell us how long it is.’ I’ll know right then that the choreography just went out the window and they’re only worried about how long they’ll be on stage. And, quite frankly, there are a lot of cirque programs out there where the acrobats don’t really have any musical feel for what they’re doing, they’re just out there performing for eight minutes and there’s some sort of canned music in the background.”
Requiring performers to have more than a passing familiarity with classical music ensures the company completes its goal of fusing the art of cirque and the art of the symphony orchestra.
“It’s an aerial ballet. There’s just so many different aspects to this program that give it a three dimensional effect,” Allen said. “It’s elegant. It needs to respect the chemistry between what we’re doing and the orchestra. We’re not there to displace the musicians as being the draw. If we do our jobs right, it’s a perfect fusion of these art forms.”
Cirque de la Symphonie will perform with the East Texas Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. with an additional matinee performance at 2 p.m. For additional information or tickets, call 903-566-7424 or visit www.etso.org.