Cirque Brings Back Alegria, Changes Direction

It’s been hailed as the quintessential Cirque du Soleil show and today Cirque management said it was relaunching the emblematic Alegría “by popular demand”. A “first” for the company, a move which does not impact new creations currently under development, we’ve been assured. “This is special,” Daniel Lamarre, CEO of Cirque du Soleil said. “This does not stop us from having 12 projects being created right now. ”

“We’ve had so many requests over the years, from our fans, internally, our employees, asking us to bring back this show,” said Yasmine Khalil, chief executive producer. “So we thought what better time to do that then as it celebrates this important anniversary.”

“Alegria,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1995, remains Cirque du Soleil’s most watched song on YouTube.

The organization says it was a no-brainer to bring it back. “Honestly there was a huge demand from fans and there were a lot of people inside (the Cirque) who were as excited as the fans,” said Daniel Fortin, the newly appointed vice-president of creation at the Cirque du Soleil. “So we said, ‘Why not?’ ”

The biggest challenge is to respect the vision of the original creators while taking into account the cultural changes that have happened over the past 24 years, said Fortin. “It is a show that, for me, was a big surprise. I didn’t know we were able to do that kind of show 25 years ago and I was impressed. This is where my respect for that company came from. Since the narrative and the story of the story is very today, there’s no problem bringing it back. And we will be able to see it through the lens of the Cirque of today, acrobatically, (and in terms of) costumes, lighting. This is why we’re bringing back this masterpiece.”

“It’s probably the first show that most of our fans ever saw of Cirque du Soleil,” Khalil said. “It’s the show that broke the barrier and told people that this is a company with a creative vision, that treats circus arts in a non-traditional way.”

Gilles Ste-Croix, Consultant

Gilles Ste-Croix, who was officially retired, was present at the unveiling this morning. He will act as consultant on the new project, assuring us that the idea of revisiting this show is not his, even if he welcomes this decision. “It was a good vintage,” he said, smirking.

How much does he want to change? “You can not transform it too much without losing things,” Ste-Croix said. “But we will of course try to go further.”

“We’re going to keep the concept as it is, we’re just going to modernize the show in terms of costumes, scenography and so that’s the creative challenge we have,” said Cirque’s President and CEO Daniel Lamarre.

And what elements of the show would he want to hold on to? “The humor,” he said. “Acrobats can be replaced; we can find stronger people. But the spirit of Alegría was special. At the time, we had recruited Russian clown Slava Polunin [creator of Slava’s Snowshow] and his melancholy humor gave the show a beautiful color.”

The Director, who will have the delicate task of respecting the original and to update it, will be announced “in a few months”. But some of the creative team seems to have already been elected. Daniel Ross has been appointed as Alegría’s Director of Creation.

Change of Direction

The Cirque du Soleil also announced Wednesday that it has re-organized its creation and production department. 45 Degrees, a division of the Cirque dedicated to the creation of special events, has taken over the Montreal-based circus’s creation and production department. Jean-François Bouchard, who was head of creation at the Cirque du Soleil, recently left the company to join former Cirque head Guy Laliberté’s company Lune Rouge.

The new Cirque creation team is headed by Diane Quinn, a veteran Cirque manager who will be chief creative officer. She will be working with Fortin, who used to be executive creative director of 45 Degrees, and Yasmine Khalil, who becomes chief executive production officer. She was president of 45 Degrees, which created the Cirque’s recent ice show Crystal.

“We have so many shows that we had to gather (everyone) under one roof and work together and now we’re looking at adding some more people because we’re really busy,” said Fortin. “It’s fun because we have different points of view. We have different ways of seeing things. It’s not just one direction. It’s many directions.”

The arrival of the 45 Degrees team running the creation department will lead to a diversification of the types of things the Cirque produces.

“We’re trying to look at different ways of doing creation,” said Fortin. “We’re doing Cirque yes, but immersive content. Different kinds of shows. We want to do the kind of shows we did at 45. Like we did a fountain show in France. We did a special tasting moment with food. Like how do we create a dinner show for example? It starts with the dinner. It’s not only the show.”

* * *

Alegría, with a cast of 53 artists and musicans, is bound on a “limited tour” of about four years, mainly in North America, following its run in Montreal. The show will feature some revamped costumes and makeup, and will incorporate new technologies to keep the show relevant.

The 25th Anniversary Tour begins April 18, 2019.

{ SOURCE: La Presse, Global News, Montreal Gazette }