It has been dubbed "the dark side of Cirque" - an adults-only cabaret circus that mixes death-defying acts with sexy costuming and jaw-dropping moments of athleticism and strength.

Le Noir opened to an enthralled in-the-round audience at Crown Theatre last night, combining risque costumes with heart-stopping trapeze duos, silk rope feats, acrobatics, balancing acts and the ominously named Colombian Wheel of Death.

One of the most complex stunts in the world, it features two performers carrying out their act from the top of a pair of giant spinning wheels high above the stage.

Many of Le Noir's performers are Cirque du Soleil alumni and though the show draws on the Cirque format, it is much darker and, in some cases, scarier.

"Even after 10 years doing the Wheel of Death, you're still afraid," Colombian-born performer Angelo Rodrigues said.

"You're still practising a lot and you are always trying to do new stuff. It's really dangerous - you have to be really focused on what you do because we don't use any nets or mats."

Rodrigues, who grew up in a circus family, said the Wheel of Death contraption was 8m high. For the audience, it makes for a night of hair-raising entertainment.

"Our act causes a lot of tension in the audience," Rodrigues said. "We love to see them screaming."

The West Australian

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