Cirque du Soleil is coming to Prudential Center in Newark
Cirque du Soleil continues to innovate with their latest production, Crystal: A Breakthrough Ice Experience. This one-of-a-kind performance blends the circus arts with the world of ice skating to take audiences on a journey into a whimsical frozen playground where ice skating of all kinds collides with acrobatics and aerial feats. I caught up with Michael Helgren to get all the tea on the upcoming Newark and Philadelphia performances.
Cirque du Soleil: Crystal is coming to Prudential Center. I want all the tea.
Michael Helgren: We opened on Thursday June 16th and are performing through Sunday June 19th. We have five shows total here in Newark. After Newark we are performing in Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center from June 24-26.
I assume this is part of a much larger tour. Are you going to be bringing the show to different cities and states throughout the country?
MH: Yes. We started the North American tour in April and are touring through August. Then we have a month off before we head over to Europe for six months.
I understand you have been skating since you were twelve. Can you tell us how you came up and got to where you are today?
MH: I was a competitive skater when I was younger. I went to US Nationals and represented the United States internationally. When I turned 19, I decided to turn professional. When you turn professional, you can’t compete anymore. When I turned professional, I began performing in shows. I assumed I would only do this for a year or two before I go back to school.
Fast forward to today and I am going on 13 years doing this. I love the touring lifestyle. I have traveled to roughly 45 countries throughout my time performing, which is an incredible experience because the crowds always react differently. Cirque du Soleil is something an ice skater would think is impossible because Cirque never hosted an ice show before. For us, being an acrobat is something so out of our regular discipline. Thus, when Cirque decided to create an ice show, the ice-skating world was super excited. It was hard to get on the show because it is open to applicants internationally. I was one of only thirteen ice skaters chosen, so for me it is my biggest career accomplishment thus far.
Given this is Cirque’s first ice show were you nervous because of the moves and intricacies involved?
MH: Absolutely! I was nervous in a way I have never been before. When you are watching the show as an audience member, you are in awe. However, I am on the stage with them, and I am just as much in awe. I was super nervous because I wanted to uphold the standard and quality of what they are doing. It was a big challenge but worth it. It connects the worlds of ice skating and acrobatics beautifully. I get to perform a bit of acrobatics including a swinging pendulum pole. During this I get on one side of the pole while the acrobat is on the other side, and we create speed pushing down on the pole. At the highest point, when the pole is completely vertical, I push off the bottom of the pole and the acrobat flips backwards.
This sounds incredible. What is your favorite part of the show?
MH: I do pair skating and figure skating. I do triples on my own as well as have a partner who I lift. We do bounce spins, throws, and overhead lifts. There is a number in the show called “Courtship” and it’s where the pairs skaters are featured. There are three of us pairs teams performing the most elite tricks you can witness on ice. This is my favorite number because I feel, in a show amongst different acts coming together, this is where I get to shine the most because this is what I trained the hardest for.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
MH: Injuries would be a big one. Right before I was contacted by Cirque, I was going to quit skating all together. I was finishing out my career, I had a shoulder injury, and I just was not sure if being on the road was what I wanted anymore. I did not know where my next step was because my injury took me off the ice for six months. I was slowly getting better, and Cirque reached out to me which sped up my motivation to get in shape. I feel in better shape now than I did before. I feel like Cirque saved me and kept me performing.
How big is the team you are touring with? Are you friends with your team?
MH: We have about 107 people on tour and there are 43 performing artists. We basically take up an entire hotel. Some of the people I consider family are people I have met on tour over the years. You spend so many hours and so much intimate time on and off the ice. Since you do not have your family with you, they essentially become your family. It is a nice bond to have.
Outside of the obvious, Cirque du Soleil, what would you consider your biggest accomplishment?
MH: I would say just the travel in general. I always knew, even as a kid, I wanted to see the world yet never thought I would truly get to see the world. I have been to so many places and sometimes take it for granted. Even in the United States alone I have learned there is so much to see domestically. If you think about it, our country is the size of a portion of Europe, and we have so many different cultures, climates, and environments in the US alone.
Is there anything else you can give away?
MH: This show is great because I feel anyone of any age can enjoy the show as well as relate to Crystal. Crystal is trying to find her own voice in life. The show is based on Crystal and Crystal’s reflection which takes her through a journey to show her she can do, be, and achieve anything she desires. It empowers Crystal during different stages of her life, is easy to follow, the music is relatable, and the lighting and performances are really alluring. This show really sells to a big market.
For tickets visit: CirqueDuSoleil.com/Crystal