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Cirque du Soleil in REA will combine acrobatics and skating

Cirque du Soleil is bringing an entirely new show to Ralph Engelstad Arena next week—one that introduces an ice rink into the equation.

In the aptly named production, "Crystal," the company's 43 gymnasts and skaters explore the artistic limits of performing on ice for the first time in its 34-year history, said Julie Desmarais, publicist for Cirque du Soleil.

The company's renowned acrobatic performers are joined by ice skaters with figure- and extreme-skating backgrounds, Desmarais said.

"Crystal" fuses circus arts and the world of ice skating in a production that takes the audience on a journey into a surreal world where figure skating blends with acrobatics and aerial prowess, she said.

The show features amazing physical feats on the ice and in the air, she said, combining multiple disciplines such as synchronized skating and freestyle figure-skating acrobatics with swinging trapeze, aerial traps and hand-to-hand stunts.

Most of the performers are skating throughout the show.

With a technical team that provides the video, lighting, sound, automation, rigging and carpentry skills for the production, the entire crew numbers about 90, Desmarais said.

Journey of self-discovery

The show tells the story of Crystal, the main character, as she soars through this surreal world at high speed to become what she was always destined to be: confident, liberated and powerful, Desmarais said.

Crystal has been described as a woman shattering reality to discover herself in a world of possibility, she said.

"Everyone can connect with Crystal in some way. She is different; she feels like she doesn't fit anywhere," Desmarais said. "She looks for herself, and she finds herself by meeting all these characters through her journey in her imagination."

The story is told through "a clear narrative, spoken during the show," she said, "but it's also told through video projections on the ice that visually transport the audience to different environments."

Ice presents a unique challenge—and opportunity—for the renowned Cirque du Soleil acrobatic troupe, she said.

"It's a very different surface from a regular stage. The ice skaters had to learn a little bit of acrobatics, whether by learning some juggling or learning to fly.

"And a group of the acrobats were working for the first time on ice, so it required a little bit of adaptation to this new surface," she said.

"Cirque developed specially designed shoes to allow them to run, tumble, do flips and everything we expect to see acrobats do, in a very safe manner."

Incorporating an ice rink into their performances is an example of how the company continues to seek innovative ways to engage audiences, Desmarais said.

" 'Cirque du Soleil' aims to always reinvent itself by pushing the boundaries of entertainment," she said. "We also wanted to bring a new twist to traditional ice shows by incorporating acrobatics on the ice."

The effect of music

Music also is part of the story, Desmarais said.

Maxim Lepage composed most of the music, which "has a cinematographic scope to it that connects all of the story together," she said.

Four popular songs by other composers, with musical arrangement by Lepage, are incorporated into the production because they relate to the story and create a connection with the audience, she said.

Consideration also was given to the special costuming needs of artists performing on ice.

Several artists who slide on the ice wear garments and accessories made of water-resistant and non-absorbent fabric. Others wear Kevlar gloves that protect their arms from the skates' blades.

Cirque du Soleil's "Crystal" has been performed in 40 cities since opening in October in Lafayette, La., said Desmarais. "It has been welcomed super-well everywhere we've been."

The entire tour will include about 80 to 100 arenas throughout the U.S. and Canada.

"It's non-stop, but it's exciting because we get to go to cities that are not always on the tour plan," she said.

The show "is appealing for the entire family. It really is a production that speaks to everybody. All ages would enjoy it.

"There's something for everybody in this production, either it's the music, acrobatics or skating," she said. "There are many 'ahs' and 'wows' in this production. What the performers accomplish is quite incredible."

This marks the third visit by Cirque du Soleil to Grand Forks, she said. Previous shows were "Delirium" in 2006 and "Quidam" in 2012.

If you go

What: Cirque du Soleil's "Crystal"

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 4 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena

Tickets: $42 to $120. Log on to www.cirquedusoleil.com/crystal

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