Cirque du Soleil ‘Crystal’ duo performs at Crystal Cave
It was a match made, if not in heaven, then under the hills west of Kutztown.
“Crystal” meets Crystal Cave.
Performers from Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal,” June 26-30, PPL Center, Allentown, visited Crystal Cave, Richmond Township, Berks County, June 25.
They performed acrobatic moves seen in the show that’s making its Lehigh Valley debut.
Leon Fagbemi of London lifts his Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” partner Amber Van Nijk of Belgium high above his head as she balances on his hands outside the entrance to Crystal Cave.
The duo repeats another routine, known in circus performer parlance as “A Split Mexican,” and other moves and poses inside Crystal Cave in The Crystal Ballroom, the largest cavern approximately 125 under the ground.
The idea for Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers to visit Crystal Cave originated with Carole J Morganti, of CJM Public Relations, and Bryan Buttler, founder, Bryan Buttler Media Relations, LLC, who are handling publicity for Cirque du Soleil “Crystal.”
“We thought it was a natural to have ‘Crystal’ at Crystal Cave,” says Buttler.
It tied into the theme of the Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” show, whereby a young woman, Crystal, falls through the ice of a frozen pond into an underwater world.
The temperature inside Crystal Cave, which is closed March 1-Nov. 30, is about 56 degrees fahrenheit year-round.
Is the visit by Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” performers a first for Crystal Cave?
“Absolutely, to have acrobats here,” says Crystal Cave, Inc., President Kathy Campbell.
It’s also a first for the Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” duo.
“We don’t have anything like this in London,” says Fagbemi, then jokes. “It’s the same temperature.” He previously has visited caves. He never performed in a cave.
“It’s beautiful. I didn’t know what to expect,” says Van Nijk. It was her first time in a cave.
Fagbemi and Van Nijk play a variety of characters in “Crystal.”
In the circus performance arts, they are known as hand-to-hand artists.
“I have a background in gymnastics. There are five categories. Mine is mixed pairs,” Fagbemi says.
Fagbemi’s role is that of a mixed-pair base.
Van Nijk’s role is that of a mixed-pair flyer.
Fagbemi, 32, trained at Bromley Valley Gymnastics Centre, Bromley, United Kingdom. He submitted a video to Cirque du Soleil and auditioned in London. He has been on tour with Cirque du Soleil since February.
Van Nijk, 26, was seen at a gymnastics competition by Cirque du Soleil scouts. She has toured with Cirque for nine years.
They began gymnastics at elementary-school ages. Each studied ballet.
“Crystal” combines acrobatics and ice-skating, a performance combination said to never have been done before in a show.
This year, “Crystal” is touring the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
After the PPL Center, Allentown, performances, Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” heads to Leon’s Centre, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, July 3-7; Erie Insurance Arena, July 10-14, Erie; Spectrum Center, July 17-21, Charlotte, N.C.; Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, July 24-28, Indianapolis, Ind.; SNHU Arena, Aug. 1-4, Manchester, N.H., and Cross Insurance Arena, Aug. 7-11, Portland, Me.
Then, it’s on to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, and Mexico. The “Crystal” tour concludes the year in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Russian Federation countries.
Crystal Cave has concrete walkways and steps and metal handrails, installed during the 1930s. Originally, there were wooden pathways. In recent years, dramatic lighting was added.
“It’s family-owned by the Kaufman and DeLong familes since 1923, but it was operating for 50 years before it was bought,” says Campbell.
The 150-acre tourist attraction includes a restaurant, ice-cream parlor, museum, miniature golf course, nature trail, sluice (to pan for gemstones) and gift shop.
“That’s what we’re know for, our phenomenal ornamentation,” Campbell says of Crystal Cave.
“It was discovered in Nov. 12, 1871, by two farmers blasting this side of the mountain for limestone to fertilize their fields.
“They gathered that night at a local tavern. They had ropes and torches and they made it to the ice cream cone formation,” says Campbell, referring to the cave’s prominent stalagmite, a rock formation that accumulates on a cave floor from ceiling drippings.
“A neighbor, Samuel Kohler, started renting the cave in January 1872. It was 25 cents to take the tour. They provided protective clothing. People came in their Sunday-best,” Campbell says.
The one-hour Crystal Cave tour, which includes a film shown in a building outside the cave entrance, allows visitors to walk about 500 feet inside the approximately 60-foot-wide and 2,000-foot-long cave.
Cirque du Soleil “Crystal” tickets: PPL Center box office; PPLCenter.com; 610-347-TIXX
Crystal Cave, 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown; crystalcavepa.com; 610-683-6765