Christmas is in the air.
You can see it in the eyes of a child, gazing on holiday decorations. You can hear it in the voices of carolers.
In DeVos Performance Hall this week, you really will be able to see it and hear it in the air.
The Grand Rapids Pops, for its seventh holiday season, presents Cirque de Noël in DeVos Performance Hall with aerial acts, juggling, magic and more with special guests, Cirque de la Symphonie, plus live music from the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Associate conductor John Varineau conducts performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 22, and at 8 p.m. Friday, December 23.
It's safe to say you can call Cirque de Noël a holiday tradition in West Michigan.
“It's a beautiful show, and a show for all ages from children to the elderly,” said aerialist Christine Van Loo, a Grand Rapids native who has performed here twice, first with Cirque de Noël in 2011, bringing along plenty of family of her own to the show.
“Six aunts and uncles and I don't know how many dozens of cousins,” said the former champion acrobatic gymnast, a seven-time National Champion, to MLive in 2011.
European-style cirque acts, also known as “le nouveau cirque” or contemporary circus, differ from American circuses with animal acts and slapstick clowns performing under a big top tent.
Cirque artists are athletes trained to perform in theatrical settings.
Cirque de la Symphonie takes cirque one step forward by performing exclusively with symphony orchestras.
"The choreography and the music is what makes it interesting,” said company co-director Alexander Streltsov in 2011. “When it's right, you feel like the music was written for them.”
Cirque de Noël has been a best-seller for the orchestra since its debut in 2009. Yet this year’s show is largely a new show with several new performers.
Aerialist Aloysia Gavre has been a mainstay of the company’s annual appearances. Sagiv Ben Binyamin first appeared with the GRS in 2011 and has returned once.
Together they’ll perform an acrobatic tango duo to music from Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite.
Oleksiy Snarskyy, a master of the larger-than-life German wheel, was in DeVos hall for the first time in 2013. He’ll be back with a German wheel routine to “Caribbean Sleigh Ride,” not Leroy Anderson’s “Sleight Ride,” but a contemporary, Latin-flavored piece by Robert Wendel.
Newcomers include Brandon Grimm, who performs on aerial pole to an arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships.”
First-timers also include dancer and contortionist Sarah Sporich, who has appeared on TV on Glee, with Michael Jackson for the Billboard Music Awards, and with Jennifer Lopez for the American Music Awards. She performs an aerial silk routine to music featuring special guests, the David Arkenstone Group, and an original piece of music titled “Snowdance.”
Sporich will be joined by newcomer Autumn Crockett, who has appeared on TV with LeAnn Rimes and CeCe Winans, in the movie I Kissed a Vampire, and on TV on America’s Got Talent. They’ll team up for a contortion and dance routine to the well-known “Skater’s Waltz.
Not all of the music is strictly Christmas. The program includes music from the Disney movie Frozen.
It also includes Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dance of the Tumblers” from his opera, The Snow Maiden; and his Polonaise from his opera, Christmas Eve.
“We're trying to stay for the most part with a Christmas theme, but most of the Christmas music has been played over and over,” Streltsov said. “It works better in the show because it lets the orchestra shine."