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Crystal in Halifax: a photo essay

On Wednesday, Aug. 28 in Halifax, Cirque du Soleil opened their new show – Crystal. This is the production’s latest creation (out of 42) and the first one on ice. Acrobats on ice were uncharted territory before Crystal, according to spokesperson Janie Mallet. The show blurred the boundaries between gliding sports and circus arts.

Behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil’s show Crystal, performers are warming up for their first show in Halifax.  The cast is a blend of acrobats and ice skaters from 11 nationalities, Mallet says. “All acrobats had to learn how to skate, some of them have never been on ice before.” The performers had to learn skills from each other and practice for months in advance. // Photos by Chris Stoodley.
Shawn Sawyer is a Canadian Olympic figure skater, now performing in Crystal with Cirque du Soleil. “I pretty much had to scrap everything I knew about performing. I competed by myself and here, on this big stage, I’m sharing it with 42 different artists,” Sawyer said backstage. “Cirque du Soleil revolutionized the entertainment industry.” // Photos by Chris Stoodley.
With 43 performers, the show has over 2000 costume pieces per show. Mallet says the day before the show, staff had to do 48 loads of laundry. The cast has 40 wigs per show, 30 of which are for the main character – Crystal. Each wig is hand-sewn and takes two hours to complete. // Photos by Chris Stoodley.
According to Mallet, Cirque du Soleil constantly invents technology for the show. For Crystal, outfits are lined with wires and GPS systems that are “read through cameras in the ceiling.” This technology allows precise lighting and special effects that follow performers on stage. Shoes and skates are also carefully designed to be safe for acrobats on ice. // Photos by Chris Stoodley.
Setting up production took 12 hours.  In the music production room, musicians will be playing live during the show. Along with music, the stage itself is important to the story, says Mallet. Cut-outs, streams of paper and pop-ups are features that make the set of Crystal unique.  Backstage, there are over 40 crew members making sure nothing is missed before and during the show, she said. // Photos by Chris Stoodley.


The production describes the set as “vintage poetic.” It is built to reflect ice, as video projections transform it scene-to-scene.  Crystal, the main character of the play, dives into “a world of her imagination,” according to Mallet. Crystal falls through the ice and lands in an upside-down world where she revisits scenes from her childhood. She observes and interacts with characters from her childhood, progressively being more and more involved, on her journey to rediscover herself.  

The hockey scene represented her neighbourhood playground. Stunts were performed by extreme skaters, as the set turned into a “highoctane romp on ramps” according to a press release. They performed extreme jumps and flips, “turning the ice into a giant pinball machine.” According to Mallet, these extreme skaters had to also learn most figure-skating techniques for the show. // Photos by Karla Renic
The show was full of dramatic solos. Both lighting and music were carefully chosen to emphasize the mood of each scene. During the Home Swing scene, Crystal flies up on a trapeze and performs acrobatic stunts in ice skates. Mallet says this a first in a Cirque du Soleil show. // Photos by Chris Stoodley.
The final scene, Breakthrough, featured a giant pinwheel of acrobats and skaters as Crystal had arrived to end of her journey. The press release says: “having summoned the courage to reach her true potential, she finally breaks through the ice and resurfaces, at one with her inner self, where she is greeted by her family and friends.” // Photo by Karla Renic

The show took place in the Scotiabank Arena from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1. According to Mallet, Halifax is Crystal’s last stop on their North American tour.


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