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Blade Stunner

Cirque du Soleil’s production of "Crystal" pushes the boundaries of performance by combining stunning skating and acrobatic feats that defy the imagination.

Article
Michele Chiappetta
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
September 28, 2018

Imagine a show filled with talented acrobats from all over the globe, performing amazing feats of flexibility and strength, tumbling madly across the ground, flying through the air. Sounds like a Cirque du Soleil show, right? Now imagine all that acrobatic and aerial derring-do taking place not on solid ground, but on sleek, glittery, slick ice.

Wait, what? Ice?

Yes, you read that right. Cirque du Soleil’s latest excursion through Tulsa will be the unique performance, Crystal, which blends Cirque’s well-known acrobatic style with skating performances to offer Green Country residents a show like they’ve never seen before. It’s part of the company’s magic to offer the new and unique. But it’s also a way to keep them on their toes and growing.

“When Cirque takes a new avenue and explores new territories, it allows a creative company to stay fresh and ahead of the game,” explains the show’s artistic director Fabrice Lemire. “If you repeat what you have been known for, then your audience can get blasé and fatigued.”

Crystal is not a repeat of what the company has done before. It’s their first show on ice, so everything has been considered from new viewpoints — from who would fit into such performances to how to handle the aerial stunts Cirque is known for — all while wearing skates. Lemire says the company has enjoyed the challenge, and audiences will love the results.

Cirque du Soleil’s latest excursion through Tulsa will be the unique performance, Crystal, which blends Cirque’s well-known acrobatic style with skating performances to offer Green Country residents a show like they’ve never seen before.
Cirque du Soleil’s latest excursion through Tulsa will be the unique performance, Crystal, which blends Cirque’s well-known acrobatic style with skating performances to offer Green Country residents a show like they’ve never seen before.

“It’s like any project when you go into a new territory where you haven’t been before,” he says. “You have to navigate it, finding the people who have knowledge.” Cirque has brought in people from the skating world to be a part of the production, such as Benjamin Agosto, an American skater and Olympic silver medalist who serves as Crystal’s skating performances director.

The question, says Lemire, became: “How can we use that floor? It works well for skaters, we know that. How can we make it compatible for the acrobats? We had to explore new designs for the show, gloves, how to do handstands on the ice. There were so many layers of thoughts and roadblocks that we had to bypass. The ice surface can completely change the feel of a trick.”

The character of Crystal is looking for where she belongs, which is something we all face at certain points in our lives.
The character of Crystal is looking for where she belongs, which is something we all face at certain points in our lives.

To meet the challenge of performing acrobatics on ice, Cirque looked for a special group of artists — 43 in all. Almost half of that group are skaters who showed the ability to incorporate acrobatic moves into their skating. “Within that umbrella, you have mixed pairs, solos, extreme skaters, and freestylers,” says Lemire.

The rest of the artists are acrobats who also have skating abilities or were willing to learn. Everyone had to learn new skills to suit the unique nature of working on ice, which adds speed and quick turns of direction to many of the stunts.

“We thought, ‘Let’s try to blend the two,’” says Lemire. “We have artists on skates who then go onto the trapeze and work with skates on. Or we’d ask a skater to build up her body strength to carry herself in the air. It required finding the performers who are not just good at what they do but open-minded and excited to explore new territories as well.”

When audiences see the show, Lemire expects they’ll love its creative aspects and be wowed by an ice show that is truly unlike any other they’ve experienced. “The ice creates beautiful images,” says Lemire. “The crisp coolness of the ice gives a very different feeling to the audience. There’s something unique and festive about that shift.”

In addition to the dynamic stunts and tricks being performed, Crystal has a distinct, powerful storyline that resonates with audiences. The character of Crystal is looking for where she belongs, which is something we all face at certain points in our lives.

“Many of us wonder what our purpose in life is,” says Lemire. “Fitting into the mold of society is a challenge. Crystal doesn’t feel she fits in at home, at school, or in society at large. But it’s OK to be different while society is telling you something else. That is the message of Crystal. When she runs away from home, she falls into the ice, into her reflection. The metaphor is, embrace who you are, embrace your diversity, feel good in your skin. We have so little time on Earth. Make the best of it.

“I continuously rethink my purpose and what is beautiful to me so I can come to work and help. I believe this message will be an inspiration to many, a recognition that, you know, I don’t have it that bad after all. Let’s move forward.”

Audiences who attend the show can expect a moving, emotional journey that builds to end on a high note. There are voice actors, high acrobatics, daring skating stunts and more. The show even features four recognizable pop songs familiar to the youthful generation Crystal is part of. “This is a way to create a bridge to bring you closer to the performers on the ice,” says Lemire.

“Come in with curiosity,” he adds. “Just sit back and let the story take you somewhere. Allow the story to speak to you.” He also recommends dressing in warm clothes or bringing a blanket, since it’s an ice show and the temperature will be set cooler than you might think.  

LOCATOR
Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal
BOK Center | Tulsa
cirquedusoleil.com/crystal
Nov. 7-9: 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10: 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 11: 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m.