GRAND RAPIDS – Ponder a few of your favorite things about Christmas.
We think a lot about twinkling lights on evergreen trees with presents all around.
Partridges in pear trees, donning our gay apparel and babes sleeping in heavenly peace fill our thoughts.
Christmas not only is the most wonderful time of the year, it's the most visual time of year, too.
So just go with it, says the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Cirque de la Symphonie, the extraordinary troupe of aerial artists, jugglers, contortionists and more, returned Wednesday to DeVos Performance Hall for the third time in three years and the second time with its seasonal "Cirque de Noel" show. Two more shows come tonight and Friday.
What Ravel and Tchaikovsky do for the ear, Cirque de la Symphonie does for the eye with lingering routines in the air and inexplicable feats of strength on the ground.
Music director David Lockington led the orchestra in an exciting performance of tuneful, toe-tapping, occasionally hair-raising music, plenty from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" Ballet.
The orchestra was a cinematic spectacle by itself with such music as highlights from the film, "The Polar Express," the original book written and illustrated by Grand Rapids' own Chris Van Allsburg.
A fair bit of of "Cirque de Noel" is a repeat performance. I've seen strongmen Jarek & Darek do the same routine three times now. First-time viewers gasp to see Jarek do a one-armed handstand on the Darek's head, then watch Darek pull himself up to a standing position with Jarek still poised there. Repeat guests are no less impressed, but they know what's coming and when.
But plenty is new, too.
Rope acts usually are the province of women. Newcomer Sagiv Ben Binyamin gave a masculine performance, flicking the ends of the rope like bolts of lightning to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
He joined Aloysia Gavre for a swinging dance routine to Duke Ellington's "The Nutcracker Suite" that had Gavre, the girl, executing a reverse push up and Binyamin, the guy, doing a handstand on her hips. Nothing you're ever going to see from Lacey Schwimmer and Chaz Bono, or anyone else, on "Dancing with the Stars."
Nicolas Kuperus, a home schooled eighth-grader and member of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, gave a superlative performance as treble soloist in Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air" from "The Snowman" to accompany Christine Van Loo on silks. Her aerial athleticism was remarkable with the ethereal character of the music.