Cirque du Soleil spectacle ‘Crystal’ glides into Hoffman Estates’ NOW Arena

Expect the unexpected.

That’s what Crystal Manich advises for Cirque du Soleil fans attending “Crystal,” the Canadian production company’s circus arts/figure skating hybrid playing this weekend at the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates.

“This is a unique departure for them,” said Manich, explaining that the company saw an opportunity to combine its signature artistry and acrobatics with skating in a way not seen before and took it.

“Crystal,” Cirque du Soleil's ice-centered extravaganza, plays Hoffman Estates' NOW Arena Friday through Sunday, March 22-24. Courtesy of Olivier Brajon

These performances mark the Chicago debut of Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila’s 2017 extravaganza, whose 44 performers include two former Olympians. The show features ice dancing, pairs and solo skating, synchro and extreme skating, along with such Cirque disciplines as aerial and trapeze arts, juggling, acrobatics, tumbling, chair balancing and others, all of which are performed on ice.

Twenty-eight projectors transform the ice into a playground, hockey rink, outdoor pond, cityscape and other settings to create a unique immersive experience, said Manich, who laughingly acknowledges that — while she’d like to claim naming rights — the show premiered long before she joined the company.

Taking over as “Crystal’s” artistic director has been a beautiful introduction to the world of figure skating, Manich said.

Cirque du Soleil's “Crystal” combines figure skating and disciplines including aerial arts, acrobatics and tumbling. Courtesy of Matt Baker & Olivier Brajon

She describes the moments in “Crystal” where an airborne performer unites with an icebound counterpart as the most exciting and distinctive elements of the show, which centers around a teenage girl’s journey of self-discovery. Feeling out of place, the titular Crystal encounters an upside-down version of her life, which leads to a revelation that allows her to come into her own as an artist.

“People can relate to that idea of being an outcast, then finding what you’re good at, which drives you forward,” Manich said.

Along the way, she encounters situations and characters that challenge and support her, said Manich, who describes the show as fast-paced with moments of sustained tension.

Highflying circus arts and figure skaters, including former Olympians, team up for Cirque du Soleil's “Crystal.” Courtesy of Matt Baker & Olivier Brajon

“There’s nothing extraneous,” she said. “That’s what makes it a really unique production in general.”

At a time when audiences have numerous entertainment options, the appetite for live performances persists, Manich said, as does Cirque du Soleil’s appeal.

“It is the only company of its kind taking the risks at the scale they are taking to complete these endeavors,” she said. “That, for me, is essential to the success of Cirque du Soleil.”

“You’re not going to see another show that incorporates all of these disciplines in one production. It’s just not possible.”

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When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 22; 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 23; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 24

Where: NOW Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates,

Tickets: $35-$105

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