What did I just watch?

Words failed me as I walked from the Victoria Speigeltent after seeing Limbo - the opening act for this year's Harcourt Hawke's Bay Arts Festival.

How on Earth to describe an evening that encompassed so much, from tap dancing to contortionists, aerialists swooping over the crowd - close enough to touch, sword swallowing and a trombone and harmonica duet?

And all done superbly, seemingly effortlessly.

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Done, also, in a speigeltent drenched in torrential rain, its canvas roof billowing with hefty gusts of wind.

Not that we noticed, spellbound as the whole audience was.

This international show has won awards and broken records. This is unsurprising.

The show, however, is full of surprises. Its stars dance, sing, contort, fly and breathe fire.

The music, composed and performed by New York's Sxip Shirey, is dynamic and different. Shirey plays multiple instruments - in fact I think he played several things that weren't even instruments. From beat boxing to making a harmonica do things I've never heard a harmonica do, the man is a musical maniac, in the best possible way.

The whole show is simply jaw-dropping. If you're thinking circus, think again. There is a binding thread of musicality throughout. While the music goes from lyrical to a joyous cacophony and back again, the performers never hit a jarring note. It's just magic.

Limbo was well worth driving 40 minutes through a storm to see, and if you haven't got tickets you have missed something special. I believe the show has sold out.

But there's much, much more to come from the festival and if this is how it opens I can only imagine how much delight the rest of the season will bring, all enhanced of course by the mirrors and mystique of one of the biggest stars of the show - the Victoria Speigeltent. She's magnificent, and it's worth going along just to be in her company.

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I drove home from this show with a big smile on my face. If you want to do the same, check out the Harcourt Hawke's Bay Art Festival website and get tickets to one of the myriad of upcoming shows...it's on until October 28.

Information and tickets: www.hbaf.co.nz