Entertainment

Cirque du Soleil brings acrobatic wonder to the ice. This isn’t Ice Capades.

Cirque du Soleil brings acrobatic wonder to the ice with “Crystal”

The famed acrobatic troupe creates their first ice show and it's coming to the Triangle next week.
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The famed acrobatic troupe creates their first ice show and it's coming to the Triangle next week.

It’s been a while since Cirque du Soleil was in North Carolina, thanks to House Bill 2, the so-called “Bathroom Bill” that prompted the company to cancel performances in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte in 2016.

But Cirque is back this month with “CRYSTAL,” which is the first time the 34-year-old Montreal-based company has taken to the ice.

“CRYSTAL” plays Raleigh’s PNC Arena Aug. 15-19, and also Greensboro Coliseum Aug. 22-26. Here are four things to know about the show.

1. It ain’t “Ice Capades.”

“Oh, it’s very different from that,” said Madeline Stammen, 24, a skater/actress who plays the title role. “When we were creating the show, we definitely wanted to do something that wasn’t ‘Ice Capades.’ It’s just as much acrobatics as skating, a blend of both disciplines.”

To that end, “CRYSTAL” has a fairly elaborate storyline that takes the title character into “a world of self-exploration,” said Cirque du Soleil tour publicist Julie Desmarais.

“After venturing onto a frozen pond, Crystal dives into an imaginary world and meets various characters who guide her,” said Desmarais. “She meets her Reflection, who helps her retrieve the strength she does not know she has within herself. As she meets these other characters, she becomes a confident and strong young lady.”

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Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal” is the first time a Cirque production involves ice skating in the company’s 34-year history. The performance combines skating and acrobatic feats. “CRYSTAL” has a fairly elaborate storyline that takes the title character into “a world of self-exploration,” Matt Beard

2. It demands versatility from the cast.

Stammen earned her spot in “CRYSTAL” through a casting notice that Cirque du Soleil posted on social media. But since the beginning of the tour, she has gone from playing one major character to another.

“There’s Crystal, and Reflection,” said Stammen. “Once Crystal falls through the ice, she meets her own Reflection beneath the surface. I was originally cast as Reflection. But the original Crystal was injured, so I’m playing her now.”

Cirque being Cirque, “CRYSTAL” is a physically demanding show for its cast to pull off, so it’s not surprising that it’s primarily younger. But it does have some skaters in the show who are in their mid-40s.

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Lkhagva-Ochir, a member of the cast of the new Cirque Du Soleil show “Crystal” poses for publicity photos at the Hunt Library on the campus of NC State University, Thursday, July 31, 2018. Ochir is a former member of the Mongolian Circus and performs a chair balancing act in “Crystal”, Cirque Du Soleil’s first venture into ice shows. The troupe will make a stop at the PNC Arena in Raleigh Aug.15-19. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

3. Some cast members had to learn skating.

While Stammen has a background in competitive skating (which she began at age 8), “CRYSTAL” acrobat Lkhagva-Ochir had never been on the ice before. He had to learn from scratch.

“I did not know how to skate before this, and it was so hard,” said Ochir, a 30-year-old native of Mongolia. “I usually work my upper body, and skating is in the legs. It’s totally different from my usual discipline.”

Ochir is renowned for his handstands and balancing routines, often involving multiple chairs. Some of his stunts are highlights of the show.

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“CRYSTAL” from Cirque du Soleil is a physically demanding show for its cast to pull off. Matt Beard Photography

4. It’s not yet clear if “CRYSTAL” will become one of Cirque’s ongoing recurrent shows.

“CRYSTAL” is currently booked through the end of 2018 and will probably play North America for another year and a half before traveling abroad.

“This is Cirque’s first on-ice show,” said Desmarais, “and I think it’s proven that Cirque du Soleil can be brought to the ice.”

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Lkhagva-Ochir (top) and Madeline Stammen, members of the cast of the new Cirque Du Soleil show “Crystal” pose for publicity photos at the Hunt Library on the campus of NC State University, Thursday, July 31, 2018. Ochir is a former member of the Mongolian Circus and performs a chair balancing act in “Crystal”, Stammen iplays the lead role of Crystal. Cirque Du Soleil’s first venture into ice shows. The troupe will make a stop at the PNC Arena in Raleigh Aug.15-19. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Details

What: Cirque du Soleil presents “CRYSTAL: A Breakthrough Ice Experience”

When: Aug. 15-19

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

Cost: $34-$130

Information: 919-861-2300 or thepncarena.com

CIRQUE2NE073118CEL.jpg
Lkhagva-Ochir, a member of the cast of the new Cirque Du Soleil show “Crystal” poses for publicity photos at the Hunt Library on the campus of NC State University, Thursday, July 31, 2018. Ochir is a former member of the Mongolian Circus and performs a chair balancing act in “Crystal”, Cirque Du Soleil’s first venture into ice shows. The troupe will make a stop at the PNC Arena in Raleigh Aug.15-19. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

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