Cirque du Soleil skates through Kingston

Crystal marks a turning point for Canadian circus company 

Cirque du Soleil performing Crystal at the Leon's Centre. 
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Photo by Pamoda Wijekoon

The circus arrived in Kingston with the scrape of skates as Cirque du Soleil performed Crystal, their first-ever ice show.

The Montreal-based troupe stopped into the Leon’s Centre on July 3, performing nightly shows to Kingston audiences and visitors until July 7.  

Cirque du Soleil has been a staple on the world stage for the past 35 years—but Crystal proves that it’s never too late for a change.

The first Cirque du Soleil show to utilise modern pop songs, a comprehensive narrated storyline, and the blended mediums of acrobatics and figure skating, it’s a marked evolution for an established company trying to connect with its audience.

The show centres around young misfit Crystal—played on July 3 by singles figure skater Lisa Mochizuki—whose active imagination leaves her lost in a world of her own after falling through a frozen river.

As the titular character is alternately chased and guided by a gaggle of Shadow characters and her own Reflection—performed on July 3 by figure skater Mary Siegal—Crystal comes together as a visually stunning exploration of self.

While the show’s development posed obstacles for the performers and show creators, Cirque publicist Frédérique Morin said the key to making Crystal possible was hiring acrobats and skaters who were up for the challenge of learning new skills.

“[Cirque du Soleil] had to find skaters that were open-minded to learn new acrobatic tricks. Some skaters had to learn how to do backflips and things like that, and then the acrobats … had to be up for the challenge of learning how to skate,” Morin told The Journal.

Faced with the new hybrid art form, show creators had to begin the development process with workshops to determine the feasibility of what could be done on the ice. One innovation was the use of crampons, the footwear devices used by mountaineers, on all the acrobats’ shoes. This allowed them to move between the air and the ice without sliding.

The results are gravity-defying stunts, including scenes where Mochizuki takes to the air on a trapeze in her figure skates, performing flips and turns with her blades balancing on the thin bar. In one scene, an acrobat scales a teetering tower of silver chairs without so much as a harness to keep him in place on top of the ice.

The imagery of the frozen river is present in every element of the show, with the performers costumes designed in patterns which emulate shattered ice. Even Crystal’s shadow explodes out from under her in five directions, like the cracks that spread underneath her feet before she fell.

Above all, Crystal was designed to resonate with audiences. Morin notes the inclusion of a narrator helps the audience follow the story and the inclusion of modern music is meant to aide viewers to “connect with what they see.”

“We wanted to push the boundaries and we wanted to share our art with different audiences.” she told The Journal. “No matter what age you are, you really enjoy the performance. With the music and the colours and the costumes and everything put together, it’s created a very unique show.”

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