CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Orchestral performances don't take flight like "Cirque de la Symphonie," the West Virginia Symphony's pops concert at the Clay Center, did Friday evening.Usually, it is a soaring violin solo that draws that observation from a critic.Wait.Concertmaster Amelia Chan did have one of those -- a beautifully nuanced playing of the stratospheric ending of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade."The real flight, though, was in the dazzling aerial performances of Christine Van Loo and Alexander Streltsov. Van Loo began with lithe, powerful work on a large ring hanging from a cable, floating and spinning above the stage to the "Bacchanale" from Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah."The orchestra, led with zest by guest conductor Stuart Chafetz, played sympathetically, woodwinds spinning lines to embrace Van Loo while timpani and horns blazed through the final throbbing dance.She and Streltsov showed grace, athleticism and artistry in the waltz from "Swan Lake," by Tchaikovsky. They each entwined arms and legs in a piece of red fabric that hung from that same cable.
The cable was raised and lowered as needed, but the performers could spin up and down the fabric, as well, to do their routine.Juggler Vladimir Tsarkov gave comic relief along with eye-opening tricks with rings, to Bizet's "Danse Boheme," from "Carmen," and pins, to "Sabre Dance," from Khachaturian's "Gayane" (with the orchestra in fine form).Elena Tsarkova seemed to float atop a pair of stools as she did a routine to the waltz from Khachaturian's "Masquerade."After the intermission, she and Tsarkov drew Chafetz away from the orchestra during the "Dance of the Swans" from "Swan Lake" to help with a rope trick. I won't give any of it away.Streltsov did some nifty twirling with a square frame to the "Torreadors," from "Carmen," which seemed basic enough, but it became impressive when he traded that for a framed cube and upped the complexity.The orchestra was in top form, opening with Dvorak's "Carnival Overture." Chafetz went for brilliance of tone and some harder surfaces to the sound.Chabrier's "Espana" had lively outbursts from the trombones and trumpets and vibrant woodwind playing. Music from John Williams' score to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was robust and colorful.The Clay Center concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday. Orchestra management reported that tickets are still available but are selling fast.