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Cirque du Soleil tops itself again — this time on ice

January 11, 2018 GMT

Cirque du Soleil currently has 21 different productions either in residence — with seven in Las Vegas alone — or touring in theaters all over the world.

Its latest offering adds a new dimension to the Montreal, Canada-based artistic company’s repertoire. “Crystal: A Breakthrough Ice Experience,” is its first acrobatic show that is performed entirely on ice.

The show, which will be in Pittsburgh for eight performances Jan. 17 to 21 at PPG Paints Arena, focuses on lead character Crystal, primarily portrayed by Canadian performer Nobahar Dadui, who falls through the ice on a frozen lake and explores a new world of her imagination that leads her to find confidence, liberation and empowerment.

Performing the role of Crystal’s father is Nathan Price, an acrobat originally from London, England, who joined Cirque du Soleil in 2017.

“I represent her home and make recurring appearances throughout the show to guide her on her journey,” he says. He also serves as an artist coach for the production, in which he acts as a middle man between the artistic team and the cast.

“If there is an injury, part of my responsibility is to get someone to cover for the performer. It’s an interesting challenge onstage,” he says.

Price knew he wanted to be a part of the ice show when he first heard of it in 2015 and he traveled to Montreal to train and audition.

“They were looking for circus artists who could skate,” he says. “I did ice hockey when I was younger. I bombarded the casting team with videos.”

A professional hand-to-hand circus artist, he graduated from the National Centre for Circus Arts in London and has performed with various circus shows.

He says that performing acrobatic jumps and flips on the slippery surface didn’t present much of a challenge once he and other acrobats perfected a long process of “research and development,” including figuring out the best shoes to wear and dealing with cold temperatures of about 46 degrees on the ice.

“The temperature makes things a little difficult,” he says, “but nothing that three layers (of clothing) can’t fix.”

His most challenging routine opens the show’s second act and involves acrobats swinging from nearly 20-foot-tall pendular aerial poles.

“As one drops off, we have to catch him,” Price says. “They’re coming down with such force; we have to be very precise so they hit the mat easily. That’s one of the numbers you have to see to understand the danger, spectacle and height — and sheer stupidity. It’s absolutely insane.”

It’s important to him to make sure he stays healthy through conditioning — working out, stretching, strength training — and sticking to a clean diet.

“Part of it is understanding that your body is your work and being smart with that,” he says.

Daniel Fortin, executive director, creation, for the show, says that, ”‘Crystal’ breaks the codes of the traditional ice show by creating a unique form of entertainment. To reach this objective, we brought together the best experts in their respective worlds. With this new show, the audience will discover the infinite possibilities that ice adds to the prowess of circus arts.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.