CRYSTAL Builds an Acrobatic World on Ice

Photo Credit: Matt Beard / Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt / 2017 Cirque du Soleil

With their newest production, Cirque du Soleil performers slip into skates as they continue to defy the imagination

Arturo Hilario

El Observador

Cirque du Soleil’s celebrated lineage of artistically rich and eclectic productions create experiences that range in their concepts and storytelling, but always seem to dazzle audiences with their unique approach. To continue that heritage, they are literally bringing their chilliest, coldest entry to date.

“Crystal”, their first production on ice, uses the added potential of ice skating mixed with acrobatics, both on the ice and in the air, to build a world of reflection and imagination.

“Crystal” tells the story of a young woman named Crystal (hence the title) who embarks into a surreal world of her own making after taking a fall into a pond. The rest is made up of the magic Cirque du Soleil is known for.

Julie Desmarais is the Touring Publicist with the production, and she gave us some insight into just exactly what makes up this new, colder, yet living and breathing landscape, and how the new slippery stage helped lead the creative team into blending art forms.

Could you break down what makes “Crystal”, being the first production from Cirque du Soleil on ice, so unique?

Well, ice brings a new element. It brings speed, it brings some elegance, and grace. With “Crystal”, we built the theme of the show around ice and we wanted to create a show that [mixed] disciplines together, acrobatics and skating. So, you have 40 world class artists, a combination of ice figure skaters, extreme skaters, acrobats, and the acrobats have to learn how to do some skating, and the skaters had to learn how to do some acrobatics. So, we wanted the disciplines on the ice to blend.

When you say “blend”, could you give some examples of what exactly is happening on the ice with these combined?

“Crystal” features 10 different acrobatic numbers, you will see some swinging trapeze, juggling as you may have seen before in some of our other Cirque du Soleil productions, with the difference that they are performed now on skates. You will see a swinging trapeze act where during the act [Crystal] is suspended 20 feet in the air with ice skates on. So, it does bring a little bit of a difference when she performs her act. Within that act you have one figure skater that does choreography, which is actually the opposite of the swinging trapeze artists.

We also use technology by using the ice as a projection canvas. There’s 28 projectors that follow the storyline of “Crystal”, and that makes our fans travel from scene to scene without changing space. It is very different in that sense, where you’ll have a juggling act [and] they are on ice skates and in the choreography, you have a combination of synchro-skating and acrobats. Same with other scenes in the show where you have the first act and it sets the tone quite well, it’s an act where Crystal falls into this surreal world and meets these shadows. In this acrobatic [performance] you have a combination of synchronization with the skaters and the choreography.

What is the story within “Crystal”?

Crystal is a young misfit, she has her head in the clouds, and she is looking for new possibilities, so she leaves home one evening and ventures on a pond and the ice breaks. From there she falls and dives into this very surreal world of her imagination where she meets characters along with her reflection, that helps her push the boundaries and identify who she is. Through this journey she becomes a young, free, empowered, and confident woman.

Did this new format on ice take longer to develop than previous Cirque du Soleil productions?

Every production we create is different in the sense of the research and development that goes along with it. With “Crystal”, and ice being a new surface, we wanted to explore what were the capacities, and how we could bring our touch to ice. The concept and the project came along in September of 2016 and several workshops were conducted [with] skating designers, acrobatic coaches, figure skaters, to see how we could bring Cirque du Soleil acrobatics onto a new surface, which is a bit more slippery. Everybody came together in June of 2017 for a 4-month creation process. During that time, we had an idea of what we wanted to do but we were still exploring, so that was part creation, part rehearsals and staging.

In the end, what would you say would be a good reason to check out “Crystal” when it comes to San Jose?

There’s many “wow’s” in the show, the energy that is brought together by the skating and the skaters and the acrobats makes it very unique. You’ll see some new acrobatics you’ve never seen. There’s nothing yet like it.

Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal” will come to San Jose from March 28, 2018 – April 1, 2018 at SAP Center. Information and tickets can be found at

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