SALT LAKE CITY — Figure skating and acrobatics are hard enough. Combining the two might sound impossible, but for Scott Smith, it was a perfect fit.
"I was a competitive skater for 20 years. In a way I've been training for this all of my life," Smith told the Deseret News.
The show he'd been training for is "Crystal," Cirque du Soleil's first ever on-ice experience, which incorporates figure skating and advanced acrobatics. "Crystal" will be at West Valley City's Maverik Center Thursday through Sunday.
Smith saw Cirque du Soleil many times in Las Vegas before joining the "Crystal" tour, and was "always inspired by the athleticism and technical skill of all of the shows," he said. Watching the performers even motivated him to put a trapeze skating act together for the cruise ship he was performing on at the time.
But with most of his background in figure skating, he never thought he'd get the opportunity to join Cirque du Soleil.
Smith committed to skating at a young age. Like many children, he experimented with different sports as a child but stopped searching once he discovered figure skating.
"I just loved skating. I loved the speed of it," Smith said. "I would just practice for hours and hours and hours on my jumping. When I wasn't skating, I was practicing my jumping in the yard."
His passion made him perfectly prepared when he saw a Facebook post inviting figure skaters to audition for Cirque du Soleil. He was overjoyed they were going in a direction he was trained in and applied.
After the audition, Smith hit the ground running, skating and flipping. Despite decades of experience, it still took a lot of work to prepare.
"There were a couple of tricks that I needed to enhance to blend the two worlds together," he explained. "Some of the tricks that I use in competitive skating I still do in this show as well, but … I do a backflip over a person in this show, which was something new."
Smith studied videos of the performance to learn the choreography and perfect new tricks. He was in the full show within two weeks of joining in November 2017, just as "Crystal" started touring.
Being a part of Cirque du Soleil took some getting used to. The scale of the performance was a huge change from the more intimate venue he'd grown used to on the cruise ship — he hadn't really skated in big arenas in the decade since he'd retired from competitive skating.
Beyond the venues, the Cirque du Soleil cast was another big difference. On the cruise ship, Smith had primarily worked with others trained in competitive skating whose stories were similar to his own.
"What's great about this is we all have such different backgrounds and everybody is very skilled in very different ways," Smith said of Cirque du Soleil's cast. "We all respect each other for the uniqueness and the skill that each person brings to the show."
These differences don't get in the way. Smith said if anything, the respect adds to their teamwork. The entire cast and production group gets along well and feels like a team. This connection is especially important, since some of the big acrobatic tricks require a lot of trust in each other.
These more daring moments may seem dangerous to the audience, but Smith said every part is carefully planned and practiced to keep the performers safe.
"Occasionally there are injuries just because we're pushing our bodies all the time," he said. "But everybody here has trained and practiced a lot. We have lots of safety practices. … The training is there so it is safe when we're doing some of the bigger acrobatic tricks."
One of Smith's favorite things about touring with "Crystal," other than performing, is the tour itself. Smith said he's glad for the opportunity to tour the U.S. He loves seeing friends and fellow skaters he's trained and worked with in the different cities they visit.
"Performing on the cruise ship, you kind of move into a room, so in a way, it feels like you're doing a stationary show," Smith explained. "Obviously, you wake up and you're in a new place each day, but it doesn't have the same touring feel of living out of a suitcase and going city to city."
Though Smith has enjoyed many cities, he is particularly excited to be in Utah. During his last year of competitive skating, Smith moved to Salt Lake City to train with skater Stephanee Grosscup. After a few years of training with her, he started traveling for shows but came back to Utah in his off-time.Comment on this story
"I love Utah," he said. "I didn't plan on staying. My plan was to just move here for a year or two, work with Stephanee and then move on. But I ended up really liking it here. Being here in Salt Lake has been the most exciting, to come back here and get to perform this show in front of all the friends and connections that I've made while living here."
If you go …
What: Cirque du Soleil, "Crystal"
When: March 7-10, times vary
Where: Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake Dr., West Valley City
How much: $31.50-$73.50