Cirque du Soleil tests the (frozen) waters with Crystal on ice

Photo: Danielle Burns

A difficult Biellmann spin is performed by Reflection, one of the main characters in the Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal.

Cirque du Soleil has taken a first time crack at producing a show on ice. Crystal – merging circus arts with figure skating – was presented at the Videotron Centre from Dec. 13 to 17.

With Christmas days away, the wintery show was a timely experience, especially for children who can relate to a Nordic playground that features ice games such as acrobatic hockey. 

For Cirque’s unique 42nd production, skaters had to learn circus arts like trapeze and circus artists had to learn how to skate (some while juggling). This required coaching from experts like four-time world champion figure skater Kurt Browning, who helped develop the skating performances. “Not only was [incorporating a new discipline] a great leap for the artists, but it was also a great leap for us as a company,” wrote Cirque publicist Julie Desmarais, in an email  to the QCT.  

In the beginning, the main character, Crystal, “falls” through the ice and enters an imaginary universe where she sees her alter ego, Reflection. The plot gets lost almost immediately, with not much to tie the story together and little help from the occasional French-language narration. Despite the lack of a storyline, the acts – featuring figure skating, juggling, a swinging trapeze and extreme hockey with high-speed jumps – are enough to engage the (perhaps slightly confused) audience, all before intermission. 

Three skating musicians and the use of pop songs such as Sia’s “Chandelier” and U2’s “Beautiful Day” contributed to the mood as only music can. The impressive use of special-effect technology and 28 projectors used the reflective quality of the ice as a blank screen; one minute it was an icy pond with silvery white trees, the next, an elaborate ballroom with waltzing couples. 

The second half of the show shone brighter, with more white-knuckle moments. A swinging poles act never seen at Cirque before with pole-to-pole jumps, added an awe factor. A friendly tap-dancing competition provided a little needed humour before a suspenseful, seemingly impossible, balancing act on stacked metal chairs. A pas de deux on aerial straps shows off Crystal and her suitor’s strength. Crystal’s final challenge is a hand to trapeze act before she is able to break through the ice and return to her family and community. 

A long line-up of Canadian acrobats and skaters (such as the lead character Crystal played by Nobahar Dadui) are on the roster, with strong representation from Quebec. For Circus adepts, the face of Chilean juggler Jorge Petit might be familiar. Petit graduated from Quebec’s École de cirque, as did flyer acrobat Anne-Marie Godin. Twin Montrealers Dean and Dylan Moriarity, who usually compete against each other in Ice Cross Downhill, are on the same team during the hockey game. Another extreme skater, Kevin Lapierre, is from Drummondville. Danica Gagnon-Plamondon, who studied at Montreal’s National Circus School, performs on the swinging trapeze – while wearing skates! 

Although goosebumps are rarer than with other Cirque productions and the storyline is on thin ice, the main elements, that continue to make the Cirque world class, are present. Overall, audiences won’t be left cold. 

If you missed Crystal in Quebec City, the show is playing in Montreal from Dec. 20 to 31.  
The clown takes a dramatic spill on the slippery ice.