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Originally published Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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‘Cirque de la Symphonie’ brings spectacle to Benaroya

Contortionists, jugglers and aerialists will perform to works by Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and others played by a chamber-size group of Seattle Symphony musicians in Cirque de la Symphonie.

Special to The Seattle Times

PERFORMANCE PREVIEW

Cirque de la Symphonie

With Stilian Kirov, conducting, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $19-$92 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).

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Bringing together a symphony orchestra and circus performers indeed sounds like a perfect summer treat for the whole family, a partnering of beautiful music and a three-ring extravaganza.

But you have to see, and hear, the Seattle Symphony collaborating with guest troupe Cirque de la Symphonie to understand how something special happens when breathtaking feats of agility and strength complement the drama of an orchestra playing Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

Fans of aerialists and jugglers — as well as music lovers — will get the chance Friday and Saturday when the Seattle Symphony Orchestra hosts Cirque at Benaroya Hall. SSO assistant conductor Stilian Kirov will lead the musicians through a program including Grieg’s “Anitra’s Dance” (from “Peer Gynt”) and Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” (from “Gayaneh”) while Cirque stars appear on and above the stage.

Several of the performers have appeared in Benaroya during previous visits by Cirque. Vladimir Tsarkov appears to barely move while juggling multiple hoops, pins and Day-Glo balls. Contortionist Elena Tsarkova is as elegant as she is nimble, and strongman duo Jarek & Darek — moving languidly in bronze body makeup — are weirdly compelling.

Among other things, Cirque de la Symphonie concerts prove that orchestras have a lot in common with circus acts. Both involve suspense, spectacle and holding the rapt attention of an audience through every nuance and peak.

One Cirque performer who appreciates that parallel is Christine Van Loo, a superstar in the world of acrobatic gymnastics whose perspective on the Benaroya audience will be from 30 feet in the air.

“My favorite thing is performing with a live symphony,” Van Loo said. “It’s so beautiful. You not only hear the music, you feel it coming up through you when the musicians are right below. It’s the epitome of my career.”

Van Loo will perform a solo aerial act on silk fabric hanging from the auditorium’s ceiling, as well as participate in an aerial ballet, flying over the orchestra and patrons.

A past Cirque du Soleil aerialist and seven-time national champion in acrobatic gymnastics (and the first American to medal in the sport at an international level), Van Loo has long been in demand as a performer in films (“A Light In the Forest”), music videos and concerts (Paul McCartney).

“For me, dancing in the air is both art and athletics,” she said. “When I can make someone feel something or cry or bring out some part of humanity, then I feel I really succeeded. It’s such an expressive part of myself — natural and powerful and magical.”

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

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