Cirque du Soleil pulled into Windsor last night with a dazzling new show called Crystal, which came to YQG hot on the heels of its world premiere in Montreal. It’s an all-new ice show fusing circus art and the world of ice. The combination made for an exciting display of skill, technology and story-telling.
Crystal is the first hockey arena ice-surfaced show that the popular French-Canadian Cirque organization has ever done – using a unique mix of skates, some special shoes designed to make walking on ice easier and even some bare feet when the main character rises from the ice surface to the hands of an aerial acrobat.
It’s not a typical Cirque du Soleil show – it’s more like Star On Ice on steroids. There’s some Olympic-styled twirls, spins, jumps, leaps and flips in the show like the Stars show, but its enhanced with some Cirque-like acrobatics, a stunning lighting and special effects rig and a full-length story.
Crystal is the story of a young woman who shatters through reality to reach the surreal world of possibility. Beyond the surface, she pursues the life that has been glistening beneath.
The show begins with the main character, Crystal, going out on some ice. Very quickly, the ice starts to crack around her and she falls through the surface to a world full of lively characters swirling and swaying in gorgeous choreographed sequences. As with any Cirque du Soleil show, it had plenty of drama, edge-of-your seat action and a lot of fun all rolled into a single show – it is the kind of performance that leaves audiences leaving with smiles of satisfaction.
One sequence that seemed a little out of place was a fairly long hockey scene with several skaters flying high over ramps as high as halfway up to the arena ceiling. They came bursting out of an ice-castle that was the centerpiece of the show, trying to score on an innocent goalie at the opposite end. The whole hockey thing seemed odd, because the skaters were performing routines we’ve seen skateboarders do a million times, but I don’t believe it’s ever been done on ice skates before – the Cirque crew somehow created a surface that seemed to allow the skaters to zoom across ramps and easily walk on steps.
Most of the elements in Crystal have been seen before, but never together in one show and most certainly never with Cirque acrobatics mixed in. There were a couple gorgeous high-flying routines, a powerful segment with balancing chairs going up into the rafters of the arena and an amazing ice surface which provided dozens of backdrops for scenes on ice, in water, on grass and various other surfaces.
The show starts softly and peaks with the hockey sequence before taking a break. It returns for a powerful second half, beginning with Crystal stuck in a glass maze, which quickly warps into an amazing swinging-pole routine. The pinnacle moment of the show is a beautiful aerial routine where Crystal is carried and elevated across the ice barefoot by various performers who hand her to an aerial artiste who sweeps her into an elegant aerial straps pas de deux to the music of Beyoncé’s Halo.
The music was a mix of live and pre-recorded elements, including hits from Sia, Beyoncé and U2 sung by different Quebec artists. Three musicians occasionally appeared, playing keyboards, violin, wind instruments and guitar, but all the vocals were pre-recorded.
Although the show had a technical glitch midway through the second act, the audience was so enthralled with what they’ve seen to that point that there was little complaint, even though the wait was bordering on half an hour. The show returned and paused briefly one more time before continuing to its finale. Safety is always a concern with Cirque du Soleil shows and this was the first time I’d ever witnessed a show pause for any length of time to correct a technical flaw – safety must always come first and foremost.
Crystal was an astonishing demonstration and is gorgeous in every way. The ice seemed to enhance the movements and made the performers appear to move faster. The special effects made it snow in the WFCU Centre and the lighting changed the ice surface into new sets throughout the entire show. While ice would not be warranted for every Cirque show from here on in, it works perfectly for Crystal and its unique story.
Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal continues with shows at the WFCU Centre on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m.
Photos by Jose Ed Ramirez