Cirque on Ice: Director Fabrice Lemire talks Cirque du Soleil’s CRYSTAL

Artistic director Fabrice Lemire takes on the ice in Cirque du Soleil’s CRYSTAL. The show features an international cast of figure, extreme and freestyle skaters, acrobats, musicians, and comic characters. This is Cirque du Soleil’s first ever ice show and Lemire talks about the unique challenges of bringing acrobatics and skating together.

The production comes to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 20-23, 2019.

Cirquedusoleil_CRYSTAL_Hand-to-Trapeze-3Debra Danese: Where did the idea to do an ice show come from?

Fabrice Lemire: The concept of creating our first acrobatic performance on ice has been in progress for several years. Cirque du Soleil wanted to bring the disciplines of skating and acrobatics together in a new way, that would not only surprise our audiences, but that would also push the boundaries and challenge us.
DD: What is the storyline of CRYSTAL and what is the creative process to bring that to life?
FL: The title of the show is named after our main character, Crystal. She is timeless and is on a quest to find out who she truly is. The story of CRYSTAL is about accepting who we are and not always looking for perfection. The creative process of CRYSTAL occurred over several months of collaboration and exploration to build the world of CRYSTAL from the ground up.

Fabrice LemireDD: What were the challenges of bringing the acrobatic feats that Cirque du Soleil is known for to the ice?

FL: Ice was a big challenge! One of the challenges was to be able to be creative in adapting the equipment (shoes and gloves) to provide the artists with good grip, support, and padding to allow them to glide when needed or to give them good grip and stability in order to perform exciting acrobatics on this slippery surface.

DD: What was the training and rehearsal process like?

FL: It was a fun learning process as everyone had to adapt to a new surface and a new discipline. The acrobats had to learn how to skate and perform their disciplines on a new surface and the skaters had to learn how to do acrobatics. It was a fun process that allowed everyone to learn from each other.

DD: Much of the costuming is designed to also protect the performers. Can you tell us more about that?

FL: Safety plays a big role in the costuming of our artists. Shoes are designed to give comfort and are adapted to the skills of each artist. In CRYSTAL, the shoes, and their crampon soles, are the reason why we had to create additional camouflage padding on some of our banquine gloves. Our hockey helmets used during the show are styled with the look of the show but provide the extra protection the artist needs.

DD: The Swinging Poles act is a first for Cirque du Soleil. How was this act created for the show?

FL: Pendular Poles is a combination of Chinese Poles and Russian Swing. The poles are used in conjunction with our video projects to create the feeling of a city scape with tall skyscrapers. We conducted several workshops prior to the arrival of all the artists for the creation of the show.

DD: What is your next project?

FL: I joined CRYSTAL at the beginning of the creation process in 2017 and learned a lot about ice, skating, acrobatics, and how to combine both disciplines together. I will be heading to a new Cirque du Soleil ice creation at the end of July called AXEL.

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About the author

Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.