Thursday, February 1, 2018

Cirque du Soliel's Crystal delights with acrobatics and ice dancing in equal measure

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 11:14 AM

click to enlarge MATT BEARD, 2017
  • Matt Beard, 2017
The Jan. 31 opening of Cirque du Soleil: Crystal presented a cast of impressive acrobats, dancers, clowns, jugglers and figure skaters, and it’s safe to say they knocked another Cirque out of the park.

And yes, I said "figure skaters." Crystal shines as the first Cirque experience on ice, which makes for a diverse, high-stakes performance.

Though I have a personal love of figure skating, I seldom buy into the hype of “on ice” experiences, as they can come across as gimmicky. Cirque circumvented that trap through a variety of acts and heartfelt characters that didn’t sacrifice any of the acrobatic flair we expect coming in.

The story follows a young girl named Crystal, who delves into a surreal dreamscape in order to find herself — sometimes literally. The moment in which she encounters her mirror counterpart, they launch into a gorgeous paired dance, and things just get stranger from there, as they tend to do in Cirque du Soleil.

click to enlarge MATT BEARD, 2017
  • Matt Beard, 2017
Colorfully costumed dancers portray Crystal’s schoolmates, or the uniformed businesspeople she’s supposed to grow up to become. They skate in synchronized brilliance, sometimes breaking away to perform flips, spins and loops that dazzle as much as any standard figure skating program. But without being bound by the rules of the ISU (International Skating Union), these skaters blend diverse styles of dance and acrobatics into their skating to great effect. I nearly rose out of my seat at the first set of backflips, an impressive trick that Olympians and their ilk are sadly (but understandably) forbidden from performing.

Don’t think Crystal is all skating, though. Audiences can still expect intense acrobatics — straps, trapeze and contortion among the techniques. During a particularly terrifying performance involving a tower of chairs and a talented contortionist, my companion gripped my arm and hissed: “Where is that boy’s mother?” — a sentiment I found myself echoing after each death-defying stunt. Somehow, with blades strapped to performers’ feet, already-wild Cirque acts get a little scarier for those watching.

I most appreciated Crystal, however, for the performers who displayed diverse and specific talents. The clarinetist, a phenomenal musician, skated along with the physical performers during multiple scenes; and the clown — a staple of all cirque shows — was clearly an accomplished enough skater to fake being bad at it. He stumbled and fumbled his way around the ice, yet delivered on the moments he needed to shine — flying up ramps, for instance.

Crystal provides another exciting, heart-stopping Cirque experience, a playground for the senses that overwhelms as often as it delights. Need some more evidence? Check out the photos below, or see it yourself nightly through Feb. 4 at the Broadmoor World Arena.

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