Cirque du Soleil breaks the ice with Crystal

  • By Whitney South

Cirque du Soleil Crystal photo
By Whitney South, Best of London. 05.29.18

Known worldwide for pushing the boundaries of both imagination and innovation — Cirque du Soleil is once again taking it to the edge.

Billed as a breakthrough ice experience, Crystal is the troupe’s 42nd original show since 1984, and the first to hit the rink, blending a range of circus disciplines with freestyle and extreme skating.

The spectacle is set to hit Budweiser Gardens, June 14-17.

According to Cirque publicist Julie Desmarais, preparing the cast took more than just getting gymnasts to strap on a pair of skates.
“There were several things we needed to adapt, and safety is always the main priority in everything we do,” she said. “There were a lot of challenges that ended up becoming opportunities — from performers learning a whole new skill set, to special technology for both costumes and set design.”

Some of that tech included creating special shoes allowing acrobats to tumble on but not damage the ice, and juggling balls that would still bounce regardless of surface temperature, as well as a series of projections designed to augment the overall feel of the glassy surface.

Photo : Matt Beard
Cirque du Soleil Crystal photo2
In addition, thanks to workshops conducted by four-time world champion Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning, who took on the role of skating performances senior designer, and four-time world medalist American ice dancer Benjamin Agosto, both skaters and acrobats soon found their footing.

“Some of the performers knew a little bit, our juggler for instance knew how to rollerblade, but ice skating is different,” Desmarais explained. “Our lead had a background in gymnastics, but she had to learn aerial straps with a specialist . . . these were all new skills they needed to adapt, along with the new muscles they’re using.” 

The story follows Crystal, a creative young woman who feels misunderstood and out of sync with herself, as she ventures out on a frozen pond to escape her reality. After falling through the ice, the young heroine discovers an underwater world, awakening her own creativity and allowing her to make the journey back to reality.

It’s a tale told by 40 artists, including ice skaters, acrobats, and musicians, performing everything from swinging trapeze and tumbling, to aerial straps and feats of hand to hand.

For two Crystal cast members, solo figure skater and lead character Nobahar Dabui and acrobat Emma Stones, getting the chance to return to Ontario for a string of homecoming appearances as Cirque du Soleil artists is nothing short of exciting.

Photo : Matt Beard
Cirque du Soleil Crystal photo 3
“I hope the show will inspire and awaken some of the kids from the area like it did for me when I saw my first live performance, which always stayed in the back of my head,” said Dabui, who grew up in both Mississauga and Etobicoke. “It will be special to perform so close to home, to feel the roar of the crowd, to hear the applause and to feel the support from everyone. I think my heart may pop out of my chest with joy.”

That love of performing, and desire to inspire, is shared by Stones, who was born and raised in Whitby, before moving to Montreal to study at the National Circus School at just 13 years old.

“I’ve been dreaming of the day I’d be performing close to home since the day I left to become a circus artist,” she said. “It already gives me butterflies in my stomach to think of having an audience full of my family and friends. I can’t wait for them to see what I’ve worked so hard for all of these years.”

Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal takes over Budweiser Gardens from June 14-17.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit

Photos by : Matt Beard

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