PSO’s Pops ‘Cirque Carnival’ is a Symphony of Contortion, Strength and Agility 


If you ever had your parents tell you, “you can be anything you want to be in life,” did you ever consider the possibility of being an acrobat who juggles while laying flat on their back while suspended 30 feet in the air above a symphony? 

The performers in Troupe Vertigo not only interpreted this early-life motivation in this manner but have also made it their life’s work to train their bodies to be able to execute acrobatic tricks with control, precision, and grace. 

Troupe Vertigo fully displays their talent during the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s PNC Pops Cirque Carnival. This performance, led by conductor Byron Stripling and featuring flutist Lorna McGhee, combines the angelic production of the PSO with the intricate acrobatic talents of Troupe Vertigo.

Troupe Vertigo performs during most pieces, but the PSO has moments throughout the show where they play without the cirque performers, allowing the show to highlight the symphony and the acrobats separately. Troupe Vertigo uses everyday objects such as ribbon dancers, hula-hoops, balls, and candles to create extraordinary illusions that defy gravity and showcase their exemplary agility. From balancing candles on their heads to leaping through elongated ribbon dancers, Troupe Vertigo makes the ordinary extraordinary.  

Both of my children are involved in competitive dance, so I often spend my weekends watching dancers from ages 5 to 18 doing elbow stands, handstands, full-backs, or countless other types of acro tricks on stage. Seeing Troupe Vertigo execute these tricks at a professional level is both inspiring for any young artist and mesmerizing for adult audiences. 

The performers weave through a myriad of dance styles, including contemporary, acro, lyrical, ballet, and ballroom, with impeccable technique. Their routines are perfectly synchronized to the symphony’s numbers and help bring the music to life in an engaging but not distracting way. As the acrobats fly through the air, they flip, contort, spin, and even juggle, all the while suspended above the stage. Each routine becomes more dangerous, technical, or simply more impressive than the last as Troupe Vertigo puts on a master class in contortion that pushes the boundaries of physical limitations. Audible “ooh’s and ahh’s” could be heard from the crowd. I am sure many spectators, like myself, could never even imagine performing these tricks on the ground, much less while dangling above an entire orchestra. 

PNC Pops Cirque Carnival offers a relaxing, delightful night at the symphony with a show that is pure temporary escapism before we dive headfirst into the business of the holiday season.


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presentation of Cirque Carnival at Heinz Hall has performances tonight, Saturday, Nov 11, 2023, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, Nov 12, 2023, at 2:30 pm.

Tickets at: https://pittsburghsymphony.org/production/84735/list_performances

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