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Cirque du Soleil's "Crystal" Uses Technology To Blend Ice Skating And Acrobatics

Matt Beard
Crystal, who falls through the ice into an underwater world, is guided by a reflection of herself.

Cirque du Soleil's "Crystal," billed as "a breakthrough ice experience," uses a combination of technology and out-of-the-box thinking to blend the show's signature acrobatics and brand new skating elements. The show runs through Sunday at U.S. Bank Arena.

Crystal, the lead character, dives into a world of imagination as she falls through the ice into an underwater environment where her reflection, played by Cincinnatian Mary Siegel, guides her through the new world. This video offers a preview

As Crystal explores this new world, the ice is transformed into a series of scenes with a couple dozen projection cameras hung from rigging in the ceiling. The concept of using the floor, or in this case the ice, as a canvas, became popular in Cirque's "Toruk," as reported by WVXU.

"The creators, when they designed 'Crystal,' they wanted to use the ice surface as a projection canvas so there are 28 projectors that are on the ceiling that assist telling the story with Crystal," explains publicist Julie Desmarais.

The wall crews were putting up Wednesday also serves as a surface for projection. It has LED lights built in to add another layer of depth and color.

The use of infrared beacons on costumes called Black Trax has been expanded in the production of "Crystal." All 43 artists have them. "In this case we don't have any physical human following spot operators around the arena," says Production Manager Christopher Koury. "Everything is done with this technology." The beacons also let the stage manager know where every performer is.

At stage right are a series of computer screens. That's where Koury says automation controls anything that moves or flies.

Cool "Crystal" Facts:

  • Breakdancing on ice is possible with special gloves equipped with crampons, a traction device usually reserved for footwear
  • With zippers that run from ankle to ankle along the inside seam, skaters don't have to take off their skates to switch costumes 
  • Different kinds of skates (figure and hockey) look alike with painted skate covers
  • It takes about 50 kilometers of fabric to make the show's costumes
  • 80 percent of the fabric is originally white but then dyed by the textile design team

Credit Matt Beard
Finale of "Crystal."