Two men juggled, and a young woman twirled through the air with their colleagues inches away, performing acrobatics — and all on ice.
Cirque du Soleil has returned to New Mexico for the fifth time with the show, “Crystal : A Breakthrough Ice Experience,” which premiered Wednesday evening at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
Julie Desmarais, a touring publicist for Cirque du Soleil, said the group trained for 15 weeks prior to their first performance.
“There was a lot of exploration to determine what we could do” in terms of bringing their work to the ice, she said.
The performers rehearsed their routines Wednesday before the grand premiere. Among them was University of New Mexico alum Jason Davenport.
Davenport earned his bachelor’s in UNM’s theatre design department. He also performed as a cheerleader at the University to work on some of the physical aspects he later brought to his work in Cirque du Soleil, he said.
His path to Cirque du Soleil began when he was earning his graduate degree, auditioned for a show in Las Vegas and accepted the position, he said.
He continued to work on three other shows in Las Vegas before he auditioned for Cirque du Soleil. He waited two months before being called for a one-on-one audition for “The Beatles Love” where it was an immediate fit, he said.
Davenport worked “The Beatles Love” for four years before he talked about possibly transferring to a touring show. It was only a week that Davenport had left “The Beatles Love” before he was offered a position with “Crystal,” he said.
“(‘Crystal’ is) a lot more fun,” Davenport said. “In Vegas we did a lot of duo acts — it was always me and one other person working on whatever it was. Here, it’s much more of a team element.”
“Crystal” describes itself as not just an ice show, but rather, Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever experience on ice, according to Cirque du Soleil’s website.
The new experience was something all performers had to adjust to, as they learned how to perform their acrobatics on ice.
Danica Gagnon Plamondon performed Crystal, the show’s main character.
“The ice is something we really haven’t experienced before with circus,” she said. “So that brings a lot of elements like speed and mixing both worlds. It’s really interesting to see speed skaters and figure skaters. It’s super interesting and fun to play with.”
Plamondon is a circus artist from Montreal, Canada who swings trapeze. “Crystal” is her second Cirque du Soleil production.
“My act is in the first part of the show, and it comes when Crystal is with her parents and her family, and she feels trapped so she goes on her swing in her backyard,” Plamondon said. “She starts to fly and have fun, and it is her moment to really shine and be herself.”
Although Plamondon had to learn to combine the swinging trapeze with skates, she said it was fun to learn her tricks again with ice skates.
“It just brings an element to this apparatus, which is swinging trapeze. It goes up and down, so I can do my trapeze and skate,” she said.
Ice skating was not the only talent that premiered on the rink — jugglers, trapeze artists and musicians also added to the experience.
The story followed Crystal, who was portrayed by seven different performers.
A voice echoed throughout various scenes once stating, "I can write my own joy," as words and images joined skaters.
The skaters added humor to their performance, as they held phones up in a parody of taking selfies and handing out flowers to chosen audience members.
The performance reached a high point, as Crystal was lifted by trapeze in an act paired with musical compositions.
“You’ve got to stand tall — it’s easy to fall, harder to get back up,” the voice echoed right before one of the final acts, as multiple Crystals joined each other on stage.
The performance came to a close with the star character skating the words, “the end,” before the audience erupted in cheers.
Nichole Harwood is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers alumni and art features. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.