Christine Van Loo has performed with the acrobatic troupe Cirque de la Symphonie for a decade and is considered a legend in the sport of acrobatic gymnastics. On May 18 and 19, she performs onstage, above stage and flying through the air at Orchestra Hall in concerts with Cirque de la Symphonie, the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Sarah Hicks. The Minnesota Orchestra musicians may be acrobats on their instruments, but having an aerialist like Christine in Orchestra Hall is a rare treat, and we wanted to learn more about her before these upcoming shows.
When did you begin training for your career?
I actually started as a competitive acrobatic gymnast when I was eight. I represented the U.S. internationally in that sport until I was 19. I was a Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, an Athlete of the Decade and I have the honor of being the only person in my sport to win seven consecutive national championships. I became a performer after retiring from competition and have been an aerialist for about 18 years. I trained myself to become an aerialist, which I don’t recommend to anyone.
How many disciplines and apparatuses do you train in? Do some interact better with live orchestra performances than others?
All in all I do about nine different aerial and/or ground acts. I haven’t done all of my acts with the symphony. With Cirque de la Symphonie I usually perform my duo aerial silks act and static aerial silks or corde lisse (aerial rope). I sometimes perform cerceaux (aerial hoop) or duo pendulum (similar to cerceux but with two people) and I have performed a duo trapeze act as well.
Why do you enjoy performing with live symphony orchestras?
I love performing with live music, and to perform with an orchestra is the epitome of that.
What have been some of your most memorable performance venues?
With Cirque de la Symphonie, it’s always nice to remember the Sydney Opera House and the Kennedy Center, but there have been so many beautiful big and little theaters. I love traveling internationally too, so I am thinking of South Africa and Venezuela as being highlights.
Outside of the orchestra venues, performing for Paul McCartney solo before one hundred thousand people was quite exciting.
How is performing in concert halls a different experience from other acrobatic performance venues?
I have performed in a huge range of performance venues from corporate shows to the Grammys and American Music Awards, and in television and movies. They are all very different, but a concert hall feels classy and elegant. Although we generally perform before a few thousand people, it still feels intimate. I can feel the audience’s energy and give them mine. I like that. What I love is that our show brings people from different age ranges together to enjoy our entertainment and to be exposed to classical music. I think that is so important.
How have you seen this show bring together people or offer exposure to something new?
I often teach aerial or acrobatics master workshops when I am in different towns performing with orchestras. As a result, I have many aerial and acrobatics students come to watch the show. It is often their first time being exposed to the orchestra. On the other hand, I met a musician, a bass player from the Seattle Symphony, who loved the circus part so much that she memorized the entire show so that she could watch instead of looking at her sheet music. She then went on to start taking aerial classes. She took several lessons and a retreat from me.
What kinds of reactions do you get from audiences when you perform?
Everything from screams (when they think I’m really falling) to standing ovations.
If you could switch places with one of the orchestra members, what instrument would you choose?
The violin. I love the violin. It plucks at my heartstrings.
What else should Minnesota Orchestra audiences know about you or about Cirque de la Symphonies’ upcoming performances here?
About me: Together my husband and I own Airborne Arts, an aerial retreat center in Costa Rica that overlooks a 600-foot waterfall. We have flying trapeze and aerial artistry classes and retreats and accommodations. I am also a motivational speaker and a master instructor.
About Cirque de la Symphonie: Come one, come all. This is a show for everyone! Information & Tickets »