Acrobat Isis Clegg-Vinell, center, plays the mother in “Crystal.” (Courtesy Matt Beard)

Cirque du Soleil hits the ice with ‘Crystal’

Acrobat Isis Clegg-Vinell says it didn’t take her too long to adapt to performing in Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal,” coming to San Jose’s SAP Center next week.

Still, the 27-year-old performer, who grew up playing hockey in a small town outside London, admits, “I have to remind myself, every day, that it is ice,” realizing she can’t be too blasé about something that can be quite hazardous.

Calling “Crystal” a “Cirque show that encompasses the ice,” rather than something like Ice Follies or Ice Capades of years gone by, Clegg-Vinell is enjoying being in the giant Canadian entertainment company’s first ice-arena extravaganza.

It tells the tale of a girl who feels different, like an outsider, who wants to escape. She falls through the ice, discovers a world below it, then goes on a journey down a path to find her strength — back in the real world.

Even though the spectacle takes place in a massive arena with lots of technical apparatus, audiences get the sentiment: “People have tears on their faces toward the end of the show, that’s nice to hear,” says Clegg-Vinell, in her first Cirque show after appearing for five years with Les 7 Doigts (The 7 Fingers), a Montreal-based circus artists’ collective.

In that troupe, she worked with Shana Carroll (the Berkeley-bred, former Pickle Family Circus performer) and her husband Sébastien Soldevila, co-directors of “Crystal,” known for their collaboration and creativity, and for bringing emotion to stunt-filled performances both intimate and immense.

For Clegg-Vinell, being part of “Crystal” is somewhat of a family affair; she already knew a lot of people in the cast (ages 19 to 60), who had worked with 7 Fingers, although she hadn’t met the any of the extreme skaters.

Extensively trained in ballet, theater and gymnastics, Clegg-Vinell says she got started at age 3, began competing at 11, added beams and bars, and “never really left.”

In London, she earned a bachelor’s degree from National Centre for Circus Arts; it was where she met her performing partner Nathan Price — he’s the base, she’s the flyer.

Here, they play Crystal’s mother and father, who, she says, are wonderfully plastic — “and that’s not just makeup and costumes.”

In the fun role, she wears a wig onstage for the first time in her career — at first she wondered how it would stay on when she’s upside down — and gets to pop her eyes.

Working on an 18-month contract, Clegg-Vinell is enjoying seeing a lot of the U.S., spending “lovely” time at home on breaks and not thinking too much about what happens after the “Crystal” tour concludes.

Aside from asserting that she hopes to be an acrobat for as long as she can, she says, “I live in the moment and focus on what’s going on now.

Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Where: SAP Center, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose
When: 7:30 pm. March 28-30; 12:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m. March 31, 1:30 and 5 p.m. April 1
Tickets: $56 to $160 and up

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