Photos by Matt Baker & Olivier Brajon

Cirque du Soleil, the famous international circus troupe, already has many audiences' hearts with 42 original shows, but a new show this winter makes a dramatic change in the entire experience. This will be the company's first-ever venture on ice.

Cirque du Soleil brings Crystal (formatted CRYSTAL), its acrobatic ice show, on tour through the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park in February of 2024, with a promise that it will be the most dazzling and magical production yet.

Real snowballs and world-class skating will be some of the chillest new additions, but the Cirque's signature acrobatics and surprisingly deep storytelling will remain a main theme.

“It’s Cirque du Soleil’s very first foray into this world,” Crystal senior publicist Christine Achampong tells CultureMap. “Our entire ‘stage’ is an ice rink, so everything and everyone slides and glides across the surface, which creates another layer of speed and spectacle in the show.”

Audiences will join the main character, Crystal, on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance as she moves through an exhilarating adventure colored by whimsical encounters, movement, and plenty of playful imagination. While the show’s message offers a universal appeal, it’s the intricate and intentional details of the production that are sure to make the most lasting impact on audiences.

It's not just ice that sets this show apart. Crystal is the only currently touring Cirque du Soleil production to use top pop songs within its soundtrack, a distinctive departure from the musical scores of creations past. Additional new changes for Crystal include large-scale interactive projections and an integrated spotlight tracking system to provide audiences with a hyper-immersive experience.

To help execute the gravity-defying stunts and high-speed precision choreography planned for the show, more than 5,000 pieces of custom-made costuming were created to withstand the cold and rigorous conditions of the stage.

Achampong says that the show features a team of professional acrobats and world-class skating performers all outfitted with adaptive garments. Some of these costume elements include Kevlar gloves to combat cold surfaces, shoes with ice-resistant traction, and water-resistant, insulated costuming material to provide safe, dry, and warm conditions.

“Our skaters are former World Champions, Olympians, and competitive skaters across multiple disciplines including solo and pairs skating, freestyle skating, and extreme skating,” Achampong says. “Combined with the tumbling, acro, aerial numbers, cinematic-style music, and comic characters, this show is incredible to watch from beginning to end.”

All signs point to Crystal being a truly unique production marked with several moments never before attempted by the Cirque team. Crystal performances are scheduled for February 21-25, 2024, at various showtimes. General ticket sales start on Monday, August 28, at cirqueudusoleil.com. This show is suitable for viewers of all ages.

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Photos by Matt Baker & Olivier Brajon

Cirque du Soliel's first-ever ice show, CRYSTAL, flurries to the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park in February 2024.


Ballet Austin pliés into new season with new world premiere and timeless classics


On the heels of Texas Performance Arts releasing their 2023-24 season schedule, one of Austin’s most sophisticated ballet companies has also revealed the lineup for their highly anticipated upcoming season.

From critically-acclaimed favorites to a world premiere, Ballet Austin’s five-production 2023-24 season is bringing big titles to the stage, with big names to match.

Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills will open the season in a bold fashion with his exalted, contemporary production of Hamlet. The tragic rendition is one of Mills’ most licensed and traveled works nationwide and internationally. American composer Philip Glass will set the music, while costumes will take inspiration from designer Giorgio Armani. Hamlet will run September 15-17.

Following the dramatic Shakespearean performance is the 61st annual production of The Nutcracker. This beloved classic is Austin’s longest-running live production, which will ring in the holiday season all month long in December. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score will feature a live accompaniment by the Austin Symphony Orchestra. The Nutcracker will run December 2-23.

The enthralling Triad: Three Bold Dances will be Ballet Austin’s first production of 2024. Triad is a choreographic combination of George Balanchine’s neoclassical Concerto Barocco, Amy Siewert’sRenaissance, and Mills’ Carbon53 (stylized CARBON53). Contemporary composers Glass and Steve Reich will set the music alongside Johann Sebastian Bach, Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Triad: Three Bold Dances will run February 16-18, 2024.

In its world premiere as the second work of the Butler New Choreography Endowment, Mills’ POE / A Tale of Madnesswill explore famed poet Edgar Allen Poe’s haunted life through dance. A newly commissioned score by award-winning composer Graham Reynolds and libretto by Rude Mechanicals co-producing artistic director Shawn Sides will help bring this production to life. This brand new performance was created following the unparalleled success of Mills’ first endowment-funded work Grimm Tales in 2019. Poe / A Tale of Madness will run March 22-24.

The final production of the 2023-24 Ballet Austin season is another beloved classic: The Sleeping Beauty. The Austin Symphony Orchestra will return for another live accompaniment to Tchaikovsky’s familiarly beautiful score. The sets, costumes, and well-known characters were designed and constructed in England, with mesmerizing choreography by Marius Petipa. The Sleeping Beauty will run May 10-12.

More information about Ballet Austin’s 2023-24 season can be found on balletaustin.org.

Photo by Dahlia Katz

Texas Performing Arts’ new season to debut diverse shows and the return of a few Austin favorites


Texas Performing Arts fans who've been waiting for the 2023-24 season announcement now have plenty to applaud: TPA’s upcoming season will feature highly anticipated bold projects, many Texas debuts, plus innovative productions with big artist and emerging-talent debuts, and the long-awaited return of some family favorites.

“I’m excited to share our 23/24 season filled with new sounds, global stories, adventurous premieres, and long-awaited returns," said Bob Bursey, TPA Executive and Artistic Director. “This season we’re presenting some of the most exciting new creations from around the world as well as bringing leading artists back to Austin.”

The 2022 Edinburgh International Festival’s crowd-pullerThe Book of Lifewill open the season in a sensational, reflective fashion for its Texas premiere, featuring Rwandan writer and activist Odile Gakire Katese and Ingoma Nshya, Rwanda's first-ever women's drumming group. The Book of Life will run September 7 and 9 at 7:30 pm at McCollough Theatre.

Following The Book of Life is Alice, a combined dance, acrobatics, and illusory performance by acclaimed contemporary dance company Momix. Alice is the newest work by artistic director and choreographer Moses Pendleton, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice will run September 20 at 7 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

In conjunction to the regular season, a six-event partnership between TPA and Fusebox will bring a more adventurous approach to TPA stages in Austin. The first of which, in its Texas debut and only appearance, is Love in Exileby Grammy Award-winning vocalist Arooj Aftab, accompanied by her two most-trusted collaborators polymath pianist Vijay Iyer, and renowned instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily. The trio will envelop the stage with a soundscape Aftab describes as "about self-exile, and the search for freedom and identity, and finding it through love and music." Love in Exile will run September 29 at 7:30 pm at McCullogh Theatre.

The second musical performance in partnership with Fusebox is the Texas premiere of Tremble Stavesby Pulitzer Prize-winning Navajo composer Raven Chacon and The Living Earth Show, comprised of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson. Musicians from the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music will also participate in the show that sheds light on climate change, specifically an approaching water shortage crisis. Tremble Staves will run on October 13 at 5:30 pm at Laguna Gloria in conjunction with This Land, an exhibition by The Contemporary Austin.

A special Dia de los Muertos celebration by esteemed Grammy Award-winning Mexican singer Lila Downs will bring a “unique interpretation of traditional Mexican and Mesoamerican music” to the ears of the audience at Bass Concert Hall. For this event, attendees are encouraged to dress in traditional, imaginative costumes to immerse themselves in the evening. The performance will be held on October 20 at 8 pm.

For the jazz and opera lovers, seven-time Grammy Award winner Terrence Blanchard will perform excerpts from his critically-acclaimed Fire Shut Up In My Bonesfeaturing his E-collective jazz band, and the Turtle Island String Quartet, and two secret guest singers. The Austin premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones will run on November 9 at 7:30 pm at McCullough Theatre.

The 2023 Grammy’s Best New Artist winner Samara Joy will bring holiday cheer and her velvety voice to Austin with a special gospel and jazz concert entitled A Joyful Holiday. The performance by “the first Gen Z jazz superstar” will also feature three generations of her McLendon family. A Joyful Holiday will run on December 3 at 6 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

The first TPA performance of 2024 will be an unforgettable evening of dance and comedy by all-male ballet troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. This will be the first time the troupe has pirouetted into Austin in eight years, and is just one stop on their 50th Anniversary Tour. Their signature ballet satire combined with their elegant movements leads to a stunning show. The performance will take place on January 19, 2024 at 7:30 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

In another show presented with Fusebox is the Texas premiere of Food(stylized FOOD) by Geoff Sobelle. Food will ask many food-related questions, prompting the audience to reflect on the way they perceive eating. Audience members will gather around a dining table to engage with each other and their empty plates during Sobelle’s performance. Food will run January 31 through February 3 at 7:30 pm with a special February 3 matinee at 1:30 pm.

For the first time in over a decade, the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will bring two dance performances to the stage as part of Ailey’s iconic ballet Revelations. Since the company’s founding in 1958, Ailey’s performers have excited over 25 million people around the world. The performances will take place at Bass Concert Hall on March 2 at 7:30 pm with a family matinee on March 3 at 2 pm.

One of the most highly anticipated returns of the 2023-24 season is a captivating one-night only performance by world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, his first in Austin in 12 years. Audience members can expect to hear some of his favorite pieces, as well as a few tales about his life and his dedication to music. An Evening with Yo-Yo Mawill take place on March 7 at 7:30 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

Artist Tania El Khoury will bring an interactive, live art performance to Austin with Cultural Exchange Rate, based on Khoury’s recorded interviews with her grandmother, detailing what it was like to live between Lebanon and Syria. The interactive portion of the show will incorporate "secret boxes to explore sounds, images, and textures" that add context to over a century's worth of border crossings. Cultural Exchange Rate will run April 10-14 at the Bass Concert Hall Rehearsal Room.

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green will delight the audience’s eyes and ears with his immersive documentary 32 Sounds, exploring sound through a sensory experience and meditation. Green will narrate the film while original music is performed by electro band Le Tigre’s JD Samson. 32 Sounds will run on April 10 at 7:30 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

In a collaboration between award-winning choreographer Abby Zbikowski and her crew The New Utility is the Texas premiere of one of the “Best Dance Performances” of 2022 as deemed by the New York Times. Radioactive Practicemelds gender-bending work with dance while performers “labor their way through complex, demanding, and often perplexing physicality to confront expectations and dive into the unknown head on.” Radioactive Practice will run at B. Iden Payne Theatre on April 12 and 13 at 7:30 pm with a matinee at 2 pm on April 14.

TPA and Fusebox are additionally partnering to provide a residency for Austin-based artist Lisa B. Thompson for the 2023-24 season. She is currently the Patton Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at UT Austin. While at her residency, Thompson will develop The Black Feminist Guide to the Human Body, which explores the disparities in Black women’s health in the United States. The show will premiere at the 2024 Fusebox Festival at The Vortex (stylized VORTEX).

Tickets for Texas Performing Arts 2023-24 season go on sale on May 12 at 10 am. More information can be found on texasperformingarts.org.

Photo courtesy of Fusebox Festival

Free performance art festival returns to Austin with truly weird works

Out of the Box

With all the festivals in Austin and all the popular acts on the circuit, sometimes it’s hard to catch a show that’s truly unique. Not that we're complaining — at least the good stuff is hard to miss. But Fusebox Festival is in a league of its own, offering the truly weird in all media via the completely unburdened-by-normalcy art of live performance.

This free festival has been a springboard for local artists for 19 years, now in a more mature space as an international destination. From April 12-16, Fusebox will present works by nearly 50 artists and art collectives at venues around town, including a moving central hub at Hotel Vegas, Ani’s Day and Night, Canopy Austin, and the Museum of Human Achievement.

Shows range from the expected, at least in terms of performance art, (an improvised tap dance in a multimedia setting) to the seemingly impossible (a multi-instrumental performance via brain waves), to the almost bafflingly accessible (a meetup for gamers.) Some are just for observing, while others are interactive, or even workshops over the course of the festival. One project buses visitors around to different venues to look at art without the logistical burden.

As in most art, identity is a widely-held focus at this festival, including a ritualistic film about Indigenous cultures' relationship to hair and a sarcastic drag standup show involving the odd boundaries — or lack thereof — in Scarlett Johannson's acting career. Other works highlight and reinterpret archival imagery from Black history and fictions about alternate histories.

Outside of the festival, Austinites can support Fusebox by joining Adventureship, a social club that provides access to special events throughout the year. One secretive event on April 13 is still open to new members (starting at $100 yearly), and will be revealed via email after signing up.

A full schedule of events from April 12-16 can be found at fuseboxfestival.com.

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A whimsical new brunch, brisket croissants, and Negroni week top Austin's tastiest food news

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


Shake Shack, the famous fast-casual burger chain, is opening the Greater Austin area's first drive-through on September 28. Although much of the appeal of Shake Shack is the not-quite-fast-food atmosphere, sometimes you just need a burger quickly — thankfully, both dine-in and drive-through experiences will be offered at this location. The "first wave" of guests on opening day at 1402 N. Interstate Hwy. 35 will receive branded keychains and matchbooks. The company will also donate $1 for every sandwich sold at the location that day to local high school career exploration group Ladders for Leaders.

Austin loves JuiceLand, its homegrown juice and smoothie staple that's been around for more than 20 years and just opened its 35th Texas location. The new location on Menchaca Road and Slaughter Lane brings the chain deeper than ever into far South Austin (1807 W. Slaughter Ln.) and neighbor's the company's corporate office. Like any other location, the menu includes lots of fruits, veggies, and supplements, making it good both for a tasty refreshment and an easy meal replacement on a busy day.

ICYMI: Uchi spin-off Uchibāannounced its opening date: October 6. While Uchi focuses on sushi, this Dallas-born concept will be all about the bar and more casual snacks — things like bao, dumplings, and yakitori. The bar will offer some unique cocktail and spirits experiences that are like omakase for delicious drinks. Meanwhile, an aging Austin staple of 15 years, Circle Brewing, is in its final hours as it permanently closes, and a new Hill Country wine tasting room by Invention Vineyards may be a consolation prize for those willing to make the drive.

Other news and notes

Austinites have been excited about Elementary, the pop-up-turned-culinary-playground, since its opening in July. Now it's adding even more whimsy via a new brunch service. Some food highlights include the "Furikake Grown Up PB & J" on sourdough toast, augmented with tahini mascarpone, honey, and sesame, and the "Frosted Flake White Russian" with oat-infused Tito's Cereal Milk and...corn, somehow. Brunch service kicks off this weekend, September 23-24, from 10 am to 3 pm. Reserve on Resy.

Two big names in the Austin food scene — Sarah McIntosh of Épicerie and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue — have joined forces for one fatty treat. (Don't worry, that's where all the flavor comes from.) The limited-edition brisket-filled croissant is garnished with candied jalapeños, cream cheese, and watermelon rind relish for a decadent snack that has all the elements of a well-balanced sandwich. They'll be for sale at Épicerie until mid-October.

If Negroni are sbagliato, we don't want to be right. The classic drink, most commonly made with Campari, is in the spotlight until September 24 as part of "Negroni Week," a worldwide charity campaign launched a decade ago by the spirit company and Imbibe Magazine. In Austin, participating bitter-but-citrusy drinks can be found at Eberly (in three variations including sour and tequila twists), Kalimotxo (featuring salted vanilla), Uncle Nicky's (one of Austin's most aperitivo-friendly locales), Otoko (more news from them up next), and more.

Otoko and Watertrade, the luxe omakase and bar combo at the South Congress Hotel, have announced their fall "Dram Sessions." No, we're not talking about the viral rapper, but this is "capers on a square plate" energy. These small whisky pours ("drams," to Scots) will educate tasters via different distilleries around the world, and they'll come with paired bites and optional caviar to elevate the already fancy experience. Nikka Whisky gets the spotlight first on September 24. Book as early as possible on Tock.

Anticipated Japanese spin-off Uchibā sets opening date in downtown Austin

See You at the Bā

The newest Uchi group restaurant has been looking stately at the base of the Google Tower on 2nd Street, with signs up that it's opening soon. Now Austinites can save the date for the much-anticipated opening of Uchibā: October 6.

From the outside, it looks very similar to North Austin's Uchiko, with plenty of casual outdoor seating and shade that will welcome visitors who are just stopping by or are waiting for tables. The downtown location — much more in the thick of things than Uchiko or even the original Uchi location on South Lamar — will likely get significantly more foot traffic, so the welcoming patios look like they'll be in use often.

Inside, key words are "relaxed hideaway" and "intimate," despite the 117 seats across the 5600 square feet. This will be achieved, according to the release, by warm "furniture, fabric, art, accessories, [and] lighting."

Uchibā will serve up some of its sister restaurants' popular dishes, but the main concept is the bar, which is right there in the name (loosely translating to Uchi Bar). The new restaurant features a full bar, and sushi bar with a yakitori grill — those skewered meats and occasional veggies that bring the charred flavor to Japanese cuisine.

Unique to Uchibā are:

  • Two menu categories: Izakaya-inspired Buns, and Bao and Dumplings
  • Uchibā Salad
  • Crispy Tofu
  • Hot Rock
  • Karaage
  • Fried Green Tomato
  • Sake Maki
  • Spicy Tuna Roll
  • Every dessert on the menu

Although Uchi is one of the most famous sushi restaurants in the country, drawing notable visitors, these newer arrivals expand the brand to something a little more accessible to casual visitors who may not want to order (or spend on) an entire omakase meal. The option is certainly there to splurge, but a quick stop at the bar will likely lure new visitors in.

"The core of Uchibā is inspired by the Izakayas that our team visited when traveling through Japan," said Chef and Owner Tyson Cole in a release. "Like Uchi and Uchiko, we have a sushi bar; cool and hot tastings, but we really lean into items like Bao, Buns, Skewers and Dumplings as a part of the intimate bar experience and we are pushing the boundaries of cocktails beyond their role as a complement to food."

By "beyond," Cole is talking about an expansive menu of wines, beers, and more than 30 Japanese whiskies, including one that'll run visitors $300 a pour: a Yamazaki 18-year old Mizunara 100th Anniversary Edition. Most interesting, this new restaurant isn't leaving the omakase spirit behind; It's applying it to drinks, making "perfect bites" of food and spirit pairings, and designing well thought-out journeys through specific categories, like agave spirits.

Uchibā is located at 601 West 2nd Street, near the bridge to Austin Public Library's central location. Operating hours will be Sunday through Thursday from 4-10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 4-11 pm. Happy Hour at Uchibā will be from 4-5:30 pm on weekdays. Reserve at uchirestaurants.com or call 512-916-4808.

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Photo courtesy of Uchibā

Uchibā announced it will open on October 6.

Amazon goes on holiday hiring spree with 4.1K open positions in Austin

Holiday News

Soon the holidays will be here, and that means an influx of seasonal work from Amazon, which is on a holiday hiring spree.

According to a release, the company is hiring 250,000 employees throughout the U.S. in full-time, seasonal, and part-time roles across its operations network.

More than 28,000 of those will be in Texas with nearly half — 13,000 employees — to be hired in Dallas-Fort Worth. (Houston will be hiring more than 5,100, Austin more than 4,100, and San Antonio more than 2,600 workers. Waco gets 1,700-plus new positions, and El Paso, more than 300.)

Those include a diverse range of roles, from packing and picking to sorting and shipping, available to applicants from all backgrounds and experience levels.

Customer fulfillment and transportation employees can earn, on average, over $20.50 per hour for those roles, and up to $28 depending on location. Interested candidates can see hiring locations and open positions at amazon.com/apply.

"The holiday season is always a special time at Amazon and we’re excited to hire 250,000 additional people this year to help serve customers across the country," says Amazon SVP John Felton. "Whether someone is looking for a short-term way to make extra money, or is hoping to take their first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career at Amazon, there’s a role available for them."

According to Felton, a fulfillment or transportation employee who starts today will see a 13 percent increase in pay over the next three years, on top of offerings like pre-paid college tuition and health care benefits on day one.

Jobs in Amazon’s operations network include: stowing, picking, packing, sorting, shipping customer orders, and more, available in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S., with a range of full- or part-time hours.

For anyone interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Amazon, they offer free behind-the-scenes tours to the public at amazontours.com.