The Freestyle Orchestra & Ross Edwards' Maninyas Violin Concerto

Members of The Freestyle Orchestra explain the ensemble in their own words


Edoardo Blandamura: bassist, aerial, fire, aspiring ninja.

Born in Italy, based in Austria

Sarkhan Akhundov: violinist, break & modern dancer

Born and based in Azerbaijan

Claudia Cox: violinist, flyer, gymnast.

Born in Australia, based in Norway



The Freestyle Orchestra: An Introduction

What is the Freestyle Orchestra? A Manifesto


The Freestyle Orchestra is a performance collective of classically trained musicians exploring and expanding the possibilities of musical expression in performance. They strive to create an aesthetic Gesamtkunstwerk on stage, incorporating physical movement, aerial arts, staging, lighting, costuming, and fire manipulation in live music performance. Building on contentions regarding the inherent physicality and activity of musical performance (i.e. "to music") as well as precepts asserting that meaning formation is corporeal (e.g. embodied research theory), they themselves research, train and perform as interdisciplinary artists, and seek out innovative ways to incorporate aerial arts, dance, hand balancing and other movement formats into their own classical music performance practices. 

Sonja Schebeck: founder, violinist, aerialist, floor work, fire artist

Born in Australia, based in Austria

Antonio Chorbadzhiyski: cellist, aerial straps, fire, acrobatics

Born in Bulgaria, based in Austria

Chanda VanderHart: pianist, aerial rope (corde lisse)

Born in the USA, based in Austria

Convinced that this aspect of inherent physicality is something which has been sacrificed to the work-centric focus of classical music (and therefore neglected within conservatory training), the ensemble believes that manifesting the movement they perceive within certain musical works is a natural process which can itself generate meaning. They envision the body as an instrument and strive to amplify musical gestures and meaning through physical movement, simultaneously enhancing and more deeply expressing their own understanding of musical compositions. 

Differentiation and Innovation

Through the development and popularity of contemporary circus, also known as “cirque nouveau”, led by groups including Montreal’s Cirque de Soleil, Archaos from France, Circus Oz in Australia and Pickle Circus in San Francisco over the past 40 years are clearly in line with The Freestyle Orchestra’s approach (as opposed to "traditional" circus), most contemporary circus utilize primarily original compositions and generally avoid classical music.

Though during the 21st century, classical music halls have begun to incorporate aerial arts more and more frequently  — particularly in opera productions — in general the music performers play music and aerial artists swing from their trapezes, harnesses or silks with limited overlap.

The development of individual, transversal performers who deliver both music and movement in an integrated way is extremely rare though not unheard of, and The Freestyle Orchestra takes this a step further, uniting a troupe of classically trained instrumentalists who also practice various movement/circus disciplines. The ultimate goal is to become an orchestra capable of doing anything. 

Moreover, The Freestyle Orchestra has generally opted to take the music itself as its starting place. Instead of finding music to suit tricks, they work with music that they envision movement or circus within, then develop a personalized, physical vocabulary which amplifies the musical emotion, aesthetic and gesture in the interest of both engaging their audiences in unique ways, but also in the interest of developing an increased personal connection to the music through their own, heightened physical experimentation and performance of it.


The Freestyle Orchestra is often referred to as a circus orchestra in that it combines circus, street and side-show disciplines (fire manipulation, tricking, street dance, aerial arts, magic) with classical music. This positioning is unique in numerous ways, not only in mixing what has long been considered “high art”, i.e. classical music, with formats long seen as “lower” or degraded to “entertainment”, but also performing in varied locations, including major concert halls (Brucknerhaus, Schauspielhaus, Joan Sutherland Theater) and on top of mountains, in fringe and street festivals, and in outdoor popup settings. Bending such well-established boundaries is transgressive, and a degree of resistance was anticipated from the onset; though classical music is more widely seen as traditional and exclusive, scholars have pointed to circus being likewise traditional, hierarchical and full of strong ideas about “how things are done.” 

(see Ferguson, Shona. "Becoming Circus: Rules, Transgression and Self-Representation at Zippo’s." Cambridge Anthropology 24, no. 2 (2004): 51-74. Accessed September 24, 2020.