Cirque du Soleil’s sublime figure skating-acrobatics extravaganza


I’ve seen several Cirque du Soleil shows, but after watching their latest, Crystal, I just kept marveling at how the performance company continues to reinvent itself. I have never seen a Cirque show on ice before (in fact, out of their 42 Cirque spectacles, this is a first on ice) and I found it positively dazzling. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what to expect, which is fine because the show defied any expectations.

Like one of my other favorite Cirque performances, Ka (in residency in Las Vegas), it features a story, which is a rarity among these shows. Crystal tells the coming-of-age tale of a misfit heroine, Crystal, who escapes her mundane life and falls through the ice, discovering her inner strength and creative spirit as she explores the magical world found under the frozen surface that serves as a counterpart universe . Crystal is played by several skaters, and she features prominently in several mesmerizing pieces.

Cirque du Soleil performers take their acrobatics to the ice for their newest show, “CRYSTAL,” at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
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I was charmed by the scenes where she meets her doppelganger and undergoes a journey to tap into her self-confidence. There were lovely moments where she interacts with her parallel universe self. Crystal seamlessly combines stunning areal skills with symbiotic figure skating choreography that simply took my breath away, most especially in a tender, sublime piece that featured Crystal and her potential love interest, portrayed by the extremely gifted French acrobat Jérôme Sordillon. I’m pretty sure I gasped several times during this pas de deux of acrobatic figure skating aplomb. Same when another couple defied all gravity through their acrobatic stunts with aerial straps that just had me on the edge of my seat.

Cirque du Soleil performer jumps off a ramp on ice skates during their show “CRYSTAL,” at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
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Like several Cirque shows, Crystal strikes the perfect balance to appeal to kids and adults alike. I brought my 14-year-old daughter and let me tell you, she was as enamored with the show as I was. It was lovely to discover that one performance piece stood out equally between us as a major highlight, which was the hockey game as seen through the lens of a pinball machine. This was a high-adrenaline performance that any description hardly does justice to. Crystal is worth attending to see this part of it alone. It’s joyfully awe-inspiring and closed out the first act in a thrilling fashion. You simply have to see it to believe it.

Cirque du Soleil performers take their acrobatics to the ice for their newest show, “CRYSTAL,” at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
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No Cirque du Soleil performance is complete without comedic effect and I loved the integration of Nate Cooper throughout, who hooks you in right away from the beginning by encouraging the audience to throw snowballs at him. Later on, he waltzes with a streetlamp (while also using the hockey game-pinball machine ramps) that is both charming and humorous. The always-unique “clown” figure in each Cirque du Soleil show keeps proving the ingenious concept and lasting power of these programs.

The other standout is the music, which starts as you’ve just stepped into a Christmas scene in Eastern Europe, with the sounds of klezmer music. But by the time you get to Beyonce’s “Halo,” the transition of styles of old-world romance to energetic rock to modern anthems, it’s fully engaging for all ages.

Cirque du Soleil performers take their acrobatics to the ice for their newest show, “CRYSTAL,” at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
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Cirque’s Crystal weaves a tapestry of her story as she views elegant couples who display the very best of pairs figure skating, a playful trio who show off their skating prowess, and a variety of styles (Irish step-dancing, figure skating, and acrobats) of an ensemble who sometimes represents the modern, corporate world, at other times the schoolroom. All the chairs incorporated in the ensemble pieces are used to thrilling effect by a fearless aerialist who stacks them one above the other and manages to balance them with acrobatic flair (I don’t think I could breathe while watching this segment).

Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal is continuing to tour, heading to several cities in Europe. Catch it while you can. I hope it will make another run or find a permanent home in Las Vegas or someplace like that because I certainly want to see it again (and so does my daughter). Plus, the music is awesome, thanks to composer Maxim Lepage, who seamlessly combines several styles. Crystal is co-directed by Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila, who blend all the performance methods into a cohesive, fluid whole.

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