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Robert Tannion, Artistic Director – CRYSTAL by Cirque du Soleil

Interview by Markus Hamence

Cirque du Soleil CRYSTAL, explores a brand new creative territory for the first time in the company’s 39-year history. This unique production pushes boundaries of the circus arts by combining stunning skating and acrobatic feats that defy the imagination. In Cirque du Soleil CRYSTAL, acrobats and skaters perform on the ice and in the air, seamlessly combining multiple disciplines for a world class audience experience. Synchronized skating, freestyles figures, and extreme skating are featured alongside traditional circus disciplines such as swinging trapeze, aerial straps and hand to hand.

Markus speaks with Artistic Director, Robert Tannion, and gets the low-down…

Markus: How does Crystal differ from other Cirque Du Soleil shows?

Robert: The most obvious difference is that the show is on ice! CRYSTAL is Cirque du Soleil’s very first acrobatic experience on ice and our entire “stage” is an ice rink, so everything and everyone slides and glides across the surface, creating a layer of speed and spectacle.

Another difference is that we have professional acrobats and world-class skaters in the show. Our skaters are former World Champions, Olympians and competitive skaters across multiple disciplines including solo and pairs skating, freestyle skating, and extreme skating. Combined with the tumbling, acro, aerial numbers, cinematic-style music, and comic characters, this show is such a thrill to watch from beginning to end.

Markus: How many weeks go into getting a new show rehearsed and ready for tour?

Robert: Show creation at Cirque du Soleil is a multi-year process that starts with a creative team coming up with various concepts for a show. CRYSTAL was created in 2017, by a creative team based in Montréal – Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila – and since then has toured to 21 countries. 

When we relaunched the show after the pandemic, our artists went through several weeks of training in Savannah, GA to get ready to tour again. Some even went to our international headquarters in Montreal, where we have a world-class training facility. This is where most Cirque du Soleil artists start their journey with the company.

Markus: What does it mean to you being a part of a major world-famous pop-culture group like Cirque Du Soleil?

Robert: Although I’ve spent the majority of my career working in the arts both at home in Australia and abroad in places like Canada, Spain, and Mexico, working for a global company like Cirque du Soleil has been quite the adventure. I feel fortunate to be able to do what I do while travelling the world, it’s an experience like no other.

This is the first time that I’ve worked on an ice show, so it was a bit of a learning curve but I feel so incredible supported by the artists, and my amazing artistic team that includes a Head Coach, 4 Artist Coaches, 3 Stage Managers, 2 Performance Medicine Professionals, and a team of 4 in our Wardrobe department, as well as our technical and tour management teams. We all feel very lucky to be doing what we love. The pandemic reinforced that for many of us.

Markus: What do you enjoy about the Adelaide audiences?

Robert: The response that we’re getting from Adelaide audiences has been amazing. They’re super engaged and by the sound of their gasps and applauses, they’re really enjoying themselves!

We’ve been having such a great time touring in Australia, especially for us Aussies on tour. It’s been great to have our friends and family come and see the show

Markus: Is there a Cirque Du Soleil show that you’ve previously seen as an audience member that made you want to be a part of it all.

Robert: Absolutely! I first saw Saltimbanco in Europe way back in the late 1990’s when I was a performer, and was blown away at the pure skill and spectacle.  Although I was working in dance and physical theatre, I saw myself one day working with the company. No career path is a straight line, but I always kept that ember alive until I joined the company in 2019.

Markus: If you had to sum up ‘Crystal’ in 3 words what words would they be?

Robert: This is such a hard one! Jaw-dropping, mesmerizing, and spectacular.

CRYSTAL by Cirque du Soleil plays Adelaide Entertainment Centre Thursday 31 August 2023 to Sunday 3 September 2023

Grab your tickets here!

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