Saturday’s Cirque de la Symphonie show was a balancing act, in more ways than one. Balance, of course, played a big role in the circus acts that were performed throughout the show: The acrobatic and aerial feats and juggling and so on. But the show, which took place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark (there was also a show at the State Theatre in New Brunswick on Sunday), was also about the balance between visuals and music, with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra setting up behind Cirque performers but always making its presence felt.
It’s that balance that makes a Cirque de la Symphonie show such a great family-friendly event. It’s not always the easiest thing to get a child or teen to become interested in classical music, of course. But at a Cirque de la Symphonie show, they can experience the power of a full orchestra in a different way; and that, of course, may spark a deeper interest.
Pieces by 14 different composers — including Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Dvorak, Sibelius and Brahms — were performed. NJSO associate conductor Gemma New led the orchestra, and her enthusiasm was infectious.
Cirque de la Symphonie, which has performed with the NJSO before, is an Athens, Ga.-based organization that does shows like this, all over North America, year-round; for information, visit cirquedelasymphonie.com.)
I went with my 13-year-old daughter Sarah, who offered her thoughts:
This show was overall a good experience. Various carnival acts are accompanied by a full orchestra. The orchestra also performs by itself, here and there.
There are a series of acts. There are two silk rope acts, one with one person performing, another with two people. There was a segment where one man came onstage and did acrobatics. During the act I got a sense of a mischievous trickster character he was portraying. Also, his movements flowed with the music, unlike many other acts. There was a girl who did amazing tricks with multiple hula hoops, and a woman who swung on a ring above the orchestra. And two strong acrobats, the only negative being their appalling costumes. They looked like flesh-colored diapers. The juggler was an interesting character — he was like a kid who was curious about everything — but his juggling lacked pizzazz. A man came onstage with only a Chinese yoyo and really wowed me by doing a lot of tricks I had never seen before.
There was another act with a man spinning square frames, which was in my opinion lame and lacked flare. He didn’t do much more than just spin them. There was an acrobatic/dancing act in which the dancing was impressive but didn’t flow with the music, and the acrobatics were impressive but I had a sense of having seen this before.