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This ice skater plays it cool in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Crystal’

Cirque du Soleil brings its first on-ice production, "Crystal," to Agganis Arena this week for 15 shows.Matt Beard Photography

Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal” arrives in Boston Wednesday for 15 shows at Agganis Arena after a three-day run this month at Amherst’s Mullins Center. Cirque du Soleil performers are known for their acrobatic and aerial feats, but “Crystal” is the company’s first production on — and sometimes above — the ice. Michael Helgren, who appears in the show, is a former competitive skater who performed for Disney On Ice before coming to Cirque du Soleil. I sat with Helgren to talk all about the rigorous process of preparing for a Cirque du Soleil show.

Q. I’d love to hear a little bit about your background as a figure skater.


A. I was a competitive figure skater until I was 19, when I turned professional and started doing shows. I’ve been touring professionally for 13 years. I’ve been to over 45 countries. I represented the US internationally and nationally, when I was competing. I got to the senior level of competitive skating, which is the highest level you can reach.

Q. How has Cirque du Soleil been?

A. As a performer and an ice skater, Cirque du Soleil is the dream. “Crystal” is the first on-ice Cirque du Soleil production, so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity.

Q. What was the preparation process like for the show?

A. They send you to Montreal, and you go through all kinds of different classes. I went through three days of just makeup training because the makeup that we do on the show takes us about an hour, so you have to learn every step. They send you through some physical fitness tests. They test your strength, they test your endurance, they test your flexibility, all kinds of things, just to make sure that you’re set when you arrive to the show and you’re ready to perform. They really do a good job of taking care of us, physically. We have two athletic trainers that travel with us on tour. It’s a really nice luxury to have someone taking care of your body and making sure you’re at your peak performance.


Michael Helgren was a competitive figure skater and performed with Disney On Ice before joining the company of "Crystal."Photo by Matt Beard, courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Q. What was it like learning the specific “Crystal” choreography?

A. I actually do something which is pretty unique in the show. I’m on what’s called swinging pendulum poles. I’m on one side of the pole, and on the other side of the pole is one of the acrobatic flyers. We create speed, and then at the highest point I push off of the pole and the flyer backflips off and lands on the ice. I’ve never worked with acrobats, so to learn their timing, to learn how they train, it was really inspiring.

Q. After taking a couple of years off due to COVID, what’s it like to go back and dust off all those old steps?

A. It’s surprising how quickly it comes back into your body once you hear the music. The second the music comes on, it’s crazy how your body just remembers what to do. It was actually a bit easier than I anticipated.

Q. What can you tell me about “Crystal” itself?

A. A lot of Cirque du Soleil shows are a bit outside the box, and they make you really think, but the beautiful thing about “Crystal” is that everyone is able to follow the story at any age. The two main characters are Crystal and her reflection. Her reflection is showing Crystal she can be anyone who she wants to be, she can act however she wants, and it takes her through a journey of self-discovery.


Q. What can you tell me about your own role within the show?

A. Being an ice skater on a Cirque du Soleil show, we are featured a lot. We have a specific act, a big pair number in the show that we call “Courtship.” I’m featured in that, and I’m also featured in a number called “Tap Dance.” There’s four single skaters on the ice, and we’re challenging each other, and at the end we all have a tap dance. I get to be a part of almost every scene, and I get to actually watch the acts as they happen right in front of me, and just like the audience I’m in awe with these acrobats. They’re phenomenal. Every night they impress me, and I’m more inspired and more motivated to work harder and to be better at my own craft.

Interview has been edited and condensed.


At Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave., June 1-12. Tickets start at $39. www.cirquedusoleil.com/crystal

Sam Trottenberg can be reached at sam.trottenberg@globe.com.