RELATED: Valley native is ice skater in show
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
It’s a mash-up that has been waiting to happen. Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, “Crystal,” is also its first to be performed on ice.
“Crystal” comes to Covelli Centre in Youngstown this week for seven performances Wednesday through Sunday.
Every Cirque show is a dreamy spectacle with unusual acrobatics. But putting the cast on ice skates takes it to a new level.
“Crystal” combines gymnasts and skaters in maneuvers on the ice and in the air. Synchronized, freestyle figures and extreme skating morphs into circus disciplines such as swinging trapeze and pendular poles.
In a recent phone interview, artistic director Fabrice Lemire discussed the making of “Crystal,” which debuted in October in Montreal.
“It’s vital [for Cirque] to stay ahead of the game by constantly questioning what we are doing,” said Lemire, who was calling from a tour stop in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The dilemma that Lemire had to solve was how to merge the acrobatic world into the domain of ice.
“We spent a lot of time learning the ice world from the performers, and seeing how far we could push the envelope with them,” he said. “We didn’t want to judge the skaters only by what they were good at. They brought the talent but then we had to think outside the box, and we asked the same of the acrobats.
“There was a lot of cross training, a lot of collaboration so that they could teach other on every level. We were not going to ask the acrobats to go high-level on skates, but if somebody was moving forward, we would push them in that area. There was a lot of open-mindedness from the performers.”
The result is a visual and imaginative show that captures the whimsy and athleticism for which Cirque is known, plus the speed and grace of skating.
The show clocks in at one hour and 45 minutes. It has a cast of 40, split almost evenly between skaters and acrobats. There is also a live band that plays pop songs – another first for a Cirque show.
“Some people have asked why we are going that route,” said Lemire. “My answer is there a reason behind the [selection of each] song. It helps people relate to the story.”
The use of pop songs also helps create an audience connection in a large setting. “Everyone can recognize it,” said Lemire, who said Sia’s “Chandelier” and Adele’s “Hello” are among the songs used.
While working on ice posed a fresh challenge for Lemire, it also had its advantages.
In “Crystal,” two-thirds of the rink is the performance space, with the remainder the backstage area, cordoned off with a black curtain.
“What I like about ice is that it is a white platform that allows you to use projection, and you don’t have to move too many props,” said Lemire.
Another thing that is new about “Crystal” is the clarity of its message. While all Cirque shows have a loose theme, they are quite open to interpretation. Any plot is secondary to the look and tone of the show.
“Crystal,” however, delivers a message about finding your place in the world and being comfortable with who you are.
It revolves around the main character, a young girl named Crystal, who is questioning her place in life.
“She wonders where she fits in with family and society,” said Lemire. “She is not rebellious but also not feeling good in her own skin. It’s about accepting who you are, and not seeking perfection, and accepting what life has to offer.
“You will know somebody who is going through this like Crystal,” said Lemire. “Somebody around you is on this journey.”
Audiences leave feeling touched by Crystal’s story, he said.
“It is the same in every city,” said Lemire. “There is beauty in it and it is extremely touching.”
If You Go
What: Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal”
When: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and July 1 at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Where: Covelli Centre
Tickets: $42, $55, $67, $78, $93 and $133 (for children, the range is $34 to $107). Applicable fees may apply. Go to ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000. Tickets can also be purchased at the Covelli box office.