By Khalida Sarwari
For those who find themselves missing the sight of ice and skates now that the Winter Olympics are over, good news is on the horizon.
A certain Canadian company is coming to town at the end of the month with plenty of skaters and gymnasts to put on a show featuring acrobatics on the ice and in the air. The result is an experience that features synchronized skating, freestyle, figure and extreme skating alongside circus disciplines such as swinging trapeze, aerial straps and hand to hand.
The group, of course, is Cirque du Soleil, and as part of another national tour it will stop in San Jose for a six-show stint at the SAP Center March 28 through April 1.
The show, titled “Crystal,” takes place entirely on ice—a first for the theatrical company—and follows a girl’s Wizard of Oz-type journey of self-discovery as she dives into a world of her own imagination. Crystal is described as a misfit with her head in the clouds who, feeling misunderstood, ventures out on a frozen pond one day and falls through the ice. In this underwater world she meets her own reflection—her alter ego—who then guides her through a distorted version of her life.
“In the end, she’s reunited with her family and kind of looks back on her experience and realizes she had everything inside her all along,” said Andy Buchanan, who along with his wife, Robin Johnstone, appears in just about every act. “There’s a bit of Alice in Wonderland. It’s a beautiful story. There’s a moment where people tear up all the time.”
This is the first Cirque show for the couple, but the veteran figure skaters from Canada have been practicing and showing off their craft for well over 20 years.
“The opportunity came up to try to get on this and we were like, yes we have to try it,” Johnstone said. “We were so excited to get the opportunity. It really is a dream for any figure skater.”
The transition from figure to ice skating required them to put in three months’ worth of rehearsal in Montreal and constant revisions and adjustments even now that they’re on the road. But you won’t hear them complaining about it.
“That’s a great thing I love about Cirque,” Buchanan said. “Just when you think the show can’t get any better, you’re allowed to up the ante. It’s almost like a living thing, so it’s a great thing knowing you’re going to improve and you’re allowed to evolve and grow.”
Audiences can look for the couple in the ballroom act where Crystal transforms a park into an elegant ballroom. In this act, one of the flyers appears from above and whisks her off on straps. What transpires next is a spellbinding aerial straps and skating pas de deux that blurs the boundary between ice and sky.
“I really like the courtship ballroom number because we really get to skate and perform and get to do a lot of tricks and just the feel of it feels really nice,” Johnstone said, adding, “and just getting to skate with Andy.”
Crystal is Cirque’s 42nd original production and features a cast of 40 performers. The company boasts nearly 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries.
Tickets start at $32 and can be purchased online at cirquedusoleil.com/crystal.