EVERETT — Walk a few paces.
Try spinning, fast.
Keep walking, but backward now.
Then stretch down as far as possible.
Now do a pull-up.
Spin again, fast.
Jump into another pull-up.
And spin again.
Add a dozen other people doing similar routines, on an ice rink, with lights shining and music blaring.
That’s this layman’s gist of what was a perfectly choreographed and contained chaos in Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal.”
The modern circus’ first foray into ice skating was charming, funny and thrilling from start to finish, even if its narrative was at times lost on this Cirque neophyte.
The title character, Crystal, is a young girl or woman who feels like an outcast. “She lives in her mind” and “won’t listen,” according to the narration during the opening of the first act. From there, she follows so many angsty, creative, hemmed-in heroines. Think Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in Oz, Merida in “Brave,” or Elsa in “Frozen,” all of whom wear a blue dress, just like Crystal. Just like those other famous fictional fierce females, Crystal darts off to fall into a tale of self-discovery.
“Crystal is unsure, feeling not fitting in to the world she’s in and she’s trying to run away,” said Silja Dos Reis, who plays Crystal and joined Cirque du Soleil in 2017 for this show after a youth career in competitive figure skating. “But while she falls through the ice she gets perspective, a different point of view of her uncertainty and her feeling and she sees the real world.”
In the prelude, a clown-type character is a child’s delight. His playful interactions and acting offer laugh-worthy pauses (or minute-long stretches like the young girl sitting behind me experienced).
The melding of figure skating into the world of Cirque du Soleil, already renowned for its acrobatics, seemed seamless. The skaters would glide and slide, walk and run, twirl and jump. For anyone unaccustomed to being on ice (show of hands for those like me who are not, please), that kind of athleticism is an incredible sight. Honestly, that thing when figure skaters tap across the ice while on their razor-sharp skates might as well be sorcery.
Music and video projections embellished an already captivating set. Early on, when Crystal ran off onto the ice and the sound effects of it cracking, coupled with the sight of lights projecting those cracks, made me preposterously uneasy. I knew, beyond a doubt, that the ice would not and could not crack. But when two of your base senses tell your brain something different, it still makes for some unease, and the design and production team deserve kudos for eliciting that kind of response.
That’s only the start of the tension. This being a Cirque du Soleil show, performers go up high, twirling and swinging, leaping and falling. Some of the daring performers tear across the ice onto ramps for backflips and 360 spins. Others climb high up above the unforgiving ice, demonstrating their impressive core strength while balancing on a hand or flipping off from a swinging pole onto a pad.
Crystal’s love interest, played by French aerial acrobat Jérôme Sordillon, spends a great deal of his time on aerial straps. It’s a visual representation of the pull and separation of their connection.
“For me, she’s dreaming it,” Sordillon said. “She’s longing over love, she’s longing for that attention to feel special and be accepted as she is.”
The aerial stunts gave me a bad feeling, and when they landed gracefully, I was thrilled to exhale finally and join the rowdy applause.
For anyone else like me, who has not been to such a show, I highly recommend it. It’s like a play, with plenty of noted marks to cheer and laugh, question and wonder, clap along with the music or even toss a snowball at the clown. I left astounded by their conditioning and strength, precision and artistry.
Anyone willing to part with $45-$115 for a ticket (for reference, tickets at some of their Las Vegas shows such as “Zumanity” start at $69) can catch a show and take in the story and meaning now through Sunday, April 14 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
Features editor Sara Bruestle contributed to this story.
If you go
What: Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal,” an acrobatic circus on ice
When: Shows are through April 14, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 12:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Angel of the Winds Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett
How much: Tickets cost $45-$115. Call 866-332-8499 or go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/crystal for more information.