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'Crystal': Cirque's Breakthrough Ice Experience

Cirque du Soleil Show Blends Ice Skating, Aerial Acrobatics


Photos by Matt Beard

Photographer:

Photos by Matt Beard

James Cubby

Cirque du Soleil, known for their innovative productions blending world-class athletes and performers, brings a new “breakthrough ice experience” to South Florida with "Crystal." World-class ice skaters join a cast of acrobats to create an ice spectacle featuring never-before-seen acrobatics on ice. The cast features 40 performers who come from a variety of backgrounds and each had to learn each other’s skills – the ice skaters had to learn to juggle and the jugglers had to learn to skate.

Shawn Sawyer is part of the cast of Cirque du Soleil's new show.

Photographer:

Shawn Sawyer is part of the cast of Cirque du Soleil's new show.

Shawn Sawyer, a figure skater from Canada who has been skating since he was 9 years old, was one of the performers that asked to join this special company. “They really did their homework when they asked me to join. They were looking for athletes with a unique skating background and they knew of my reputation.” Sawyer has been a competitive skater since the age of 12 vying for medals worldwide. One of his proudest moments was representing Canada in the Olympics in 2006. After retiring from competition, Shawn continued his professional career working with companies like "Stars on Ice" and "Art on Ice" performing tricks, like his signature backflip, that weren’t allowed in competition. Because of his athletic prowess on the ice and incredible flexibility, Shawn was asked to join the workshop for "Crystal,"  an intensive process of skaters and gymnastics working with choreographers and skaters hoping to mold this concept into a workable show.

The transition from performing as a solo figure skater to joining a company of 40, working as one unit was a big jump for Shawn. Not only did he have to blend with the other performers he had to learn new skills like juggling on ice. “It was a big transition for me,” says Shawn. “But, I was ready. I really enjoy the work.” In the show, Shawn plays a variety of characters - his most favorite being the office worker. “We start off as shadows then change into a variety of characters. We’re there to guide the main character through her journey.”

Photo by Matt Beard

Photographer:

Photo by Matt Beard

The show follows Crystal, a misfit with her head in the clouds who is looking for something more in her life. After falling through a frozen pond, Crystal is transported to an underwater world of her own imagination where she sees a reflection of herself - her alter ego. Her reflection guides her through a unique world where Crystal is inspired to release her hidden talents. Ultimately, Crystal breaks through the ice as a much stronger person.

The show blends the worlds of skating and acrobatics as they perform on the ice and in the air. A mixture of performance disciplines such as swinging trapeze, straps and hand-to-hand ariels are combined with synchro, freestyle, figure, and extreme skating on ramps along with all-out speed skating. Figure skaters had to learn to be pushers on Chinese poles while the circus artists had to learn to skate. The show enlisted a variety of athletic skills and they all learned from each other becoming a company that performed together as one unit. “The ensemble work is incredible in this show,” adds Shawn. “We truly perform together as a family.” One of Shawn’s favorite elements of "Crystal" is the music that was composed for this show. The score features grand orchestral sounds as well as klezmer-style chamber music and melodic folk and rock. “The music moves the show and it evolves like an erupting volcano.”

Photo by Matt Beard

Photographer:

Photo by Matt Beard

Cirque du Soleil’s "Crystal" is labeled as “a breakthrough ice experience” as it’s the first show produced by Cirque on the ice. "Crystal" is also a first as it joins so many different athletic disciplines on ice creating a new genre of performers. For Shawn, a world-class figure skater, this show has pushed him to levels he never imagined but also showcases his unique abilities. While many of the performers come from all over the world, Shawn was able to work in his hometown of Montreal where the show was created and premiered. “It was an incredible experience for me with the world opening in Montreal in front of friends and family.” Now, the show is on tour and "Crystal" has an itinerary of over 31 cities in the U.S. and hopes to travel internationally after the two-year U.S. tour concludes. “I’m doing approximately 300 shows a year,” says Shawn.

 

"Crystal – A Breakthrough Ice Experience" comes to Miami with an 11- day run from July18  through July 29. Tickets range from $43 to $160. Evening performances at 7:30 p.m., Saturday matinees at 4 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkwy, Sunrise. For tickets and info, https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/

 

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