Tricks and Traditions Meet in ‘Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular!’

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A man catches a hula hoop during the Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular! at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

The Utah Symphony and Cirque Musica kept audiences on the edge of their seats with “Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular!” over the weekend.

Following performances on the east coast and Midwest, Cirque Musica had teamed up with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall for a gripping performance combining local talent and holiday harmonies.

A trio of acrobats perform on rings during the Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular! at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Cirque Musica is a world traveling acrobatic company with a cast of 13 entertainers who perform various specialty acrobatics–and they sing, too. The company has an established routine set to specific holiday music to which acrobatic exercises are timed. Regional symphonies then learn the music set and both parties are able to seamlessly come together in a riveting show.

The opening act, “A Christmas Festival,” included the entire cast of Cirque Musica accompanied by the Utah Symphony playing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Audiences knew they were in for a treat as that piece began.

Following the joint first act, Cirque Musica launched into individual and daring performances. Each performance was enhanced and dramatized by the live music and spontaneous, awe-filled applause from the audience.

A man balances on steel parts during the Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular! at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

In addition to music timed to the acrobatic performance, the Utah Symphony played some individual pieces as well. Per usual, the finesse and talent of the Utah Symphony were present and enhanced by the gusto of familiar Christmas tunes. “Flight to Neverland” was particularly well executed and displayed the overall talent of the symphony as a whole.

Conductor Bob Bernhardt juggled the live performers and their specific cues as well as leading the Utah Symphony through some cherished Christmas songs. Favorites included “The Polar Express,” “Waltz of the Flowers” from the Nutcracker, “Carol of the Bells,” “The Christmas Song” and “Sleigh Ride.”

The Cirque Musica performers displayed excellent talent and a wide variety of acts within each piece. Individual acts included aerial skills, a Cyr wheel–a ring large enough for a performer to fit within and move around, balance feats, dancing and gymnastics, and incredible feats of strength.

Paired with Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major,” the Ruslan duo of Cirque Musica performed a jaw-dropping hand balance act with each other. Utilizing the most precise of movements and exhibiting superb strength, the duo impressed and captivated.

Members of the Utah Symphony perform during the Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular! at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Later, Schubert’s “Ave Maria” was performed while twin sisters executed gravity-defying aerial moves on hand ropes raised above the live symphony. In sync with one another, the Senchihina Twins were arguably the most challenging act of the performance. The overall effect was nerve-racking and utterly impressive as they swung on tiny ropes and flipped around each other a sheer 20 feet above the ground.

Another particular highlight within the holiday special was a guest and flying violinist, Veronica Gan, from the Cirque Musica Company. Gan was raised 20 feet into the air during her solo of “Silent Night.” Her playing was spectacular as was her simultaneous balance, adding a depth to the traditional holiday classic.

Appealing to both sound and sight, “Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular!” was not your typical symphony performance. Literally elevating the classic Christmas traditions of carol and song, the event exceeded all expectations and was a delightful symphony performance with a phenomenal acrobatic bonus and flair.

l.randall@dailyutahchronicle.com

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