Do you “Believe”?

Back in October when we were attending the Varekai performance, they were handing out flyers for upcoming events and one of those was Holiday on Ice. My mom had seen one or two of their shows over a decade ago and in a fit of nostalgia decided that she would like to go to see one again since it has been a while. We ordered some tickets on the spot while waiting for the Cirque show to begin thanks to the powers of my iPad. Yesterday was finally the day we got to see Believe.

Having grown up in Eastern Germany during the time when Katharina Witt‘s career was taking off (which later incidentally included work on Holiday on Ice as well) and thus having watched a lot of figure skating on TV of course I was a bit indoctrinated, though not overly enthusiastic. I appreciate it for what it is, but it’s neither my favorite sport nor my preferred form of performance arts. Anyway, it’s all about the spectacle, is it not?

The story as such is nothing to talk about – poor boy meets rich girl and then it’s upper class (world) vs. lower class (world) – and has been done to death. As a side effect, it also leads to the show taking forever before actually taking off. Ice pits do not tend to look very industrial or dirty, so the performers have to do some exaggerated acting and it simply looks iffy, regardless of some smoke and fire effects. There’s also not much going on in terms of exciting skating technique being on display, so more or less you can forget about the first 20 minutes or so.

Once you move to the the rich people’s club for the first time things get a lot more interesting. Most notably there’s some pair dancing numbers which show off some very exciting pirouettes, swirls and man-to-man hand-offs. This is then taken back and forth in a few variations with the locations changing, telling the story of the rich girl being ousted from high society and finding her true love with some muscular worker hunk. The wonders working in an iron factory can do for your abs! ;-)

Interspersed between the conventional skating numbers are some artistic acts like a pole dancer encircled by a water curtain and a few other things. The most enthralling bit was a “robot” formation where the whole room went dark and everything was lit only by the LED strips sewn into the clothes and forming changing color patterns via the magic of remote computer control. This was also one of the effects that wowed the crowed massively when we saw Immortal a few years back. With that technology now being widespread and affordable it’s probably not that unique anymore, but when executed well it can still impress and will continue to do so for a while.

Anecdotally, one of the performers had a loose cable or something, so his suit acted up a bit. That was a minor glitch, but otherwise they had quite some technical gadgets on display. There’s a lot of programmable lights, some smoke/ fire machines as well as some fireworks (in the finale) plus of course the video projections. The latter were kind of okay, I guess (lots of Plexus in there), though most of the time they didn’t particularly stand out or contributed much to the show. They could have used a static, painted scene backdrop and it would have been almost the same.

One other thing that also slightly bothered me was the music, both in terms of selection as well as playback during the show. A lot of times I found it annoyingly loud and cloying, while on the other hand some songs were actually quite nice and suiting the scenery well. Definitely a mixed bag. I also think especially some of the boys could use another round in the dance studio. Some of their movements looked a bit awkward and out of rhythm.

Overall, though, it’s an okay experience. It’s not the perfection of the Cirque shows, but enjoyable for what it is. If you’ve never even been to other shows, that might not even be an issue and you will be a lot more impressed than me.

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