Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

“Crystal” glides into new possibilities for the circus

Elena Morey

A&E Editor

Cirque du Soleil has a strong reputation of astonishing audiences all over the world with their seemingly impossible feats of acrobatics, strength, flexibility and courage.  The company started out as a group of humble street performers in Quebec City, Canada in 1980.  The troupe was founded by Gilles Ste-Croix and they were known as Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (The Stiltwalkers of Baei-Saint-Paul) and consisted of an electric show, jugglers, dancers, fire breathers and musicians.  Later, member Guy Laliberté decided to rename the group Cirque du Soleil because “the sun symbolizes youth, energy and strength,” according to the Cirque official website.

Soon after their first tour, Cirque du Soleil was a sensation that every theatre wanted to host.  In their newer show, Crystal, Cirque proudly pushes their limits.  Crystal is Cirque’s first show entirely on ice.  World-class ice skaters and acrobats push the company’s reputation for excellence on this very hard and cold stage, using the speed and fluidity that the stage grants them.

Directed by Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila, Crystal takes audience members on a journey of a young heroine who finds her confidence, personality and passions through creativity.  She embarks through an underwater world covered in ice and later resurfaces, born again.  Unlike most Cirque shows, Crystal relies more heavily on English dialogue and even songs in English.  More commonly, Cirque utilizes the international audiences and composes their shows mostly without dialogue.  However, when human voices are needed, they have created their own language.  This allows for shows all over the world to understand the actors, but also does not alienate viewers.  It comments on the use of language and how human intentions and emotions are not bound solely on understanding the speaker.

Walking into the arena for Crystal, one immediately notices how technological the show is. The ice beautifully reflects projected images and screens.  The show surprisingly utilizes technology almost as a crutch for a lack of the usual aspects of Cirque shows.  Due to the ice, not every usual act can be featured due to safety.  Therefore, Cirque incorporates a lot of stunning visuals and special effects that make one feel like they are seeing a film with Computer Generated Imagery.  Flawless effects and visuals enhance the show immensely and demonstrate how Cirque pushes the boundaries of performance and how the set can be used.  The really amazing factor is that all of the acrobatics, juggling and aerial feats are being performed on ice.  As a former figure skater myself, ice is hard, and if you fall even gently, it is unforgiving.  Also having a background in trapeze and acrobatics in the circus, the idea of slipping and coming down on ice is terrifying.  In one scene, the main protagonist stands and balances on her father’s shoulders in her ice skates!  In another, ensemble members on skates enter in vibrant costumes as the set transforms into a projected pinball machine.  A few silver balls are circulated through the cast as the goalie tries to track and block them.  Ice ramps are brought on and the ensemble members flip around, catch various objects and leap over fellow cast members.

Overall, Crystal diverts from the general aesthetic that Cirque has brought to countless hearts all over the world.  However, the entire work shows how the company may be expanding into new territories, expanding the capabilities of the human body and performance as a whole.

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