Shivers Guaranteed at CRYSTAL?

Since Cirque du Soleil started 33 years ago in Montreal, you’d think its performers and creators had already explored every possible idea in their quest to reinvent circus arts.

But one element hadn’t yet been incorporated into a Cirque show, forcing the artists to rethink costumes, training, sets and choreography: ice.

“The ice was a challenge — it was a new component for whatever we did,” says Fabice Lemire, artistic director for “Crystal: A Breakthrough Ice Experience.” The new show comes Nov. 4 and 5 to the Family Arena. “How do we have acrobats run on the floor? How do they do tricks? What kind of shoes? What kind of gloves?”

Lemire, who grew up in Paris and has a dance background, had to learn about the world of ice skating, from the logistics of buying shoes to sharpening the blades.

All the acrobats and performers in the show had to learn to skate. On the Cirque du Soleil team, he had the help of Olympic skaters Kurt Browning and Benjamin Agosto as performance designers.

“I love what is happening onstage,” Lemire says. “The blending of the two together (the acrobatic and skating worlds) is something unique, and I am completely mesmerized.”

Forty artists work on the show, and about 18 of them are professional skaters. For the first time, two former Cirque performers, Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila, are show directors. They learned from each other as they combined skills.

“I have this brilliant clown — not a classic clown; he’s a fantastic performer,” Lemire says. “We asked him to be on the ice, and he goes like he was born on those shoes. He had some skating experience with rollerblading, but now he’s doing this.”

The ice allows scenes and patterns to be projected onto the ice, which takes the audience into a new environment without changing the space, Lemire says. Jugglers and trapeze artists also perform on the ice.

And the main thing the ice adds?

“Speed,” Lemire says. “It offers you speed. You can glide, you can slide. I don’t want to give you the ending, but you will see a closing element of Act 1 that includes speed and heights, and it’s really stunning.”

The show tells a story of self-discovery, following a young woman as she falls through the ice on a lake.

“The metaphor is basically (that) she dives into a world of imagination as she falls into the ice,” Lemire says. “While she is in there, it allows her to discover and grow.”

And yes, she does come back, he assures with a laugh. “There is a happy ending.”

{ SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | }