“Michel Laprise – Coordinating Cirque’s Special Events”


Back in January, Michel Laprise was publicly announced as the writer and director of Cirque du Soleil’s newest touring show KURIOS – CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, a post he obviously took up a couple of years prior. As Cirque’s official biography of Mr. Laprise states, Michel worked in theater for nine years as an actor, director and artistic director before joining Cirque du Soleil in 2000. Even before he was out of theater school, Michel had started his own creation company, Théâtre Pluriel, which spawned a number of innovative productions that have garnered both popular and critical acclaim. At Cirque du Soleil, Michel spent five years as a talent scout (fans might remember seeing his name in Cirque’s 2002 reality series “Fire Within”) before taking on, in 2006, the role of Special Events Designer.

In that capacity, Michel directed a number of special performances produced by Cirque du Soleil. The biography goes on to name them: The Opening Ceremonies of the Montreal Outgames (2006), the launch of Fiat Bravo in Italy (2007), the Cirque du Soleil performance event celebrating Quebec City’s 400th anniversary (2008), the opening show at the Eurovision Song Contest held in Russia (2009), the Opening Ceremonies of the FIBA International Basketball Federation World Championships in Istanbul (2010), and the launch of Microsoft’s Kinect console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (2010),

With KURIOS set to debut very soon, and with all eyes on Michel Laprise, we thought it would be interesting to take a further peek into some of the special events Michel has been involved in creating.


Montreal was chosen to host the very first Outgames, an international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender festival celebrating sport, culture and GLBT rights and hosting approximately 12,000 athletes from around the globe. The opening ceremonies took place at the Olympic Stadium with the “circle” as its theme, which symbolizes harmony, the Olympics and the human form in movement. The show’s concept featured moving ensembles, including music, singing, dancing, choirs, crowd choreography and circus acts.

Cirque du Soleil paid tribute to athletes from every possible background and celebrated diversity by bringing to the event a poetic universe of breathtaking performances combining spectacular feats, strength and dexterity. Michel Laprise, who organized our participation in the event, had this to say: “Cirque decided to offer three acts. We didn’t oversee the entire opening ceremonies, as was the case with the FINA World Swimming Championships.

The first two acts were the Cyr Wheel—performed by Antoine Carabinier-Lépine, a member of the artistic team on our Celebrity Cruises’ “A Taste of Cirque on Board”—and a hand to-hand act featuring the duo Jaroslaw Marciniak and Dariusz Wronski, who occasionally performs in Mystère. With the third act, we decided to create a special number for the occasion. We had a strong desire to offer a special gift to the spectators of the opening ceremonies.”

The third act was set to a song by Quebec diva Diane Dufresne. The act’s creative team chose a piece that the pop singer had vowed to never sing again. However, when Diane saw the script she agreed on the spot to embark on the adventure. An original act consisting of two parts and including floor performers and a quartet of Spanish web artists was thus created specifically for the event. Explains Michel: “We had a few hours to develop and rehearse the whole thing. We had to work like we do for TV, and to come well prepared. The acrobatic aspects of the act were rather prominent, since they each took up about a minute and a half. We feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to give a lively, acrobatic dimension to this piece, which Diane performed for the very last time before her fans.”


To mark the occasion of Fiat’s launch of its new Bravo model at the Stadio dMarmi (“marble stadium”) in Rome, Cirque’s Special Events team created a unique happening. Their mission was to reinvent the concept itself of the new car launch. The first challenge the creative team set for itself was to unveil the “product” only at the end of the evening, after first conveying a sense of the car’s values and evoking its eMembers of the team visited the Bravo plant and the Fiat Design Centre, talked with the car’s designers and even askethem questions as if the car were a person. “What film changed its life? What is its favourite music? Where does it see hope for humanity? What is its greatest dream?”

The Venue

From January 29 to February 3, six evenings of lavish celebrations were offered to a select group of Fiat’s guests. Il Laboratorio Invisible: Beauty in Motion dazzled the audience of journalists, importers, dealers, suppliers, political figures, employees and partners of the prestigious Italian automaker. In all, over 8,000 people from 72 countries, including 2,000 children from Rome, attended the event.

The dream-like festivities took place under a glass tent covered by an enormous, white scrim that served as a screen for the projection of huge images offering the guests a glimpse into the creators’ imagination. All of the furnishings were made of glass or plexiglass. A totem pole assembled from car parts stood at the entrance to the venue. In addition to emitting light and serving as an instrument for the percussionists, the totem pole even featured an inner staircase and a platform for the singers. The idea was to create a gathering point that would attract the Bravo’s spirit of Beauty.

The evening began with an animated and interactive cocktail party that plunged the guests into a world of vibrant creativity: sculptors crafted clay into life-size car parts; the chandeliers swung to life, propelled by the movements of the lovely acrobats; draftsmen performed drafting choreographies to the beat of CDS music; a human assembly line brought together acrobats and dancers; stiltwalkers opened the doors to a world of dreams; live sculptures offered guests cocktails from a conveyor belt of dream sculptures; a live string quintette performed Il sogno di volare from Saltimbanco, sung by Laurence Jeannot; characters wove their way through the crowd wearing costumes designed using material from the Bravo. During the dinner that followed, guests enjoyed three circus performances.

The Show

The high point of the evening was an original, 60-minute show created specifically for the occasion. The show began with a call to Beauty by characters outfitted with actual decoys brought from Quebec (snow geese, Canada geese, moose!). This call to Beauty was echoed in the circus acts and the performances. The procession of the opening sequence was headed by four miniature Bravos driven by children… at 20 feet from the ground, under a night full of stars!

The show included eight numbers, most of them adapted for the event, as well as characters, choreographies and a grand finale: the unveiling of the car, which featured horses, a 40-car carrousel, fire performers and fireworks. The Special Events team had just over two months to create this unique experience. They began work on the project in November and obtained final approval on December 15. With 152 artists from all over the world, the team had to work very hard to obtain the work permits from the Italian bureaucracy during the holiday season! What’s more, because the site only became available a few days before the event, they had very little time to rehearse. Despite it all, everyone was blown away by the event – one they won’t soon forget.

Yet another resounding success for the Special Events team!

The Designers

	o) Director of Creation: Jean-François Bouchard
	o) Artistic Director and Director: Michel Laprise
	o) Assisted by David Poulin
	o) Production Manager: Danielle Labrie
	o) Assisted by Hugues Letellier
	o) Costume Designer: Lucien Bernèche
	o) Assisted by Niko Chicoine and Sylvain Brochu
	o) Make-up Designer: Nathalie Gagné
	o) Hair Designer: Aldo Signoretti
	o) Choreographer: Jean-Jacques Pillet
	o) Projections: Moment Factory
	o) Lighting Designer: Nol van Genuchten
	o) Assisted by Valy Tremblay
	o) Totem pole: Luisa Valentini
	o) Sound Designer: Harvey Robitaille
	o) CDS Technical Director: Marc-André Leclerc
	o) Italian Technical Director: Daniele Cunfaro
	o) Music: CDS remixed by Alain Vinet
	o) DJ: Stephane Cocke
	o) Fireworks and pyrotechnics: Michel Rioux (Fiat Lux)


As is always the case with special events, we had only one shot at creating an event to mark the grand opening of the Venetian Macau resort. I often joke that here at Special Events, the reality we face is that the lions’ den, premiere, stabilization and closing night are actually all rolled into one evening. Naturally, this pushes not only the level of emotion and risk very high, but also the level of enjoyment. The original idea was to create a 15-minute mini-show that would be inserted into the main opening show. Macau is a booming city, with new casinos opening all the time. Competition is fierce and, in their eagerness to impress, people are prepared to pull out all the stops. We, however, opted for a more sensitive approach. The story we developed tells of a young traveler who arrives in Macau at daybreak, ready to provoke his destiny and embark on a new leg of his quest. Reflecting on his life, he sets out to discover what fate has in store for him, but he does so by playing a more active role and testing his own abilities.

What struck me from the start was the fact that we were creating something for the Chinese, who are an extremely superstitious people. For example, they consider eight to be a very lucky number. They are prepared to pay hundreds of dollars to have an eight included in their cell phone number. In Hong Kong, there are people willing to pay up to a million dollars for a license plate that includes this number. Conversely, they will do anything to avoid the number four, which is pronounced like the word for “death.” The Chinese are also extremely sensitive to signs of luck. All of this made for some very interesting theatrical possibilities. Inspired by this combination of notions of superstition and destiny, I was drawn to the theme of luck. I wrote a short fable that included the main symbols of luck: the bat, which is pronounced the same way as the Cantonese word for “good luck”; the three lucky coins symbolized by the trio of women’s aerial hoops (Yin) and the men’s Cyr wheel trio on the ground (Yang); a banquine act version formed of eight artists; the dragon and the central image of the final knockabout: a red and gold fish character who jumps over the “Dragon Gate.” Indeed, in China, the expression “He’s like the goldfish that jumped over the Dragon Gate” means that a person has been successful. To reflect this symbolism, I thought of integrating a few springboard tricks that would have the traveler, transformed into a goldfish, make his exit by jumping over the Dragon Gate!

The flying dragon project was a very risky gamble. The team did great work! There is only one company that has the technology to make objects fly remotely, without wires or any other control device. Jean-François Bouchard was the one who led me to this discovery last February. When I began work on the Venetian Macau, I had a flash about having a flying dragon, just like in the stories and legends of our childhood. The Chinese are used to seeing dragons carried on poles during their traditional street parades—it’s an image that is firmly rooted in their memories. When they saw the dragon rise without any assistance and fly under the proscenium arch and out over the audience, they couldn’t believe their eyes! It’s always a good idea to incorporate a couple of risky elements into every project. It’s a good test of everyone’s courage!

The team experienced a very special connection with the audience. Something magic happened. Before we came on, each performance was well received, but after a few seconds, the atmosphere in the theatre would grow cold again as the audience retreated into the type of reserved attitude that we aren’t accustomed to at Cirque. But once we started, a wave of warmth swept through the theatre and the audience was great, applauding our acts and exclaiming with “oohs” and “ahhs” at the crucial moments in the story. It was as if someone had suddenly turned up the heat in the theatre, or as if the people in the audience felt comfortable expressing themselves—as if everyone had suddenly let down their guard.

400 ANS QUEBEC CITY (2008)

On October 17, 2008, Cirque du Soleil celebrates Quebec City’s 400th Anniversary by creating a very special performance staged at the Colisée Pepsi (Pepsi Coloseum) in Quebec City. In honor of the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, Cirque’s Events team put on a majestic show. “We truly wanted to be a part of the Quebec City celebrations, especially because it was the first to take a chance on Cirque,” said Michel Laprise, the show’s director. Before the start of each performance, the atmosphere in the Colisée was one of celebration, with the spectators—who had received free tickets—eagerly waiting for the magic to start. The designers had in fact created a special show just for the occasion: 16 scenes which each included various acts. Below is a summary of the event.

The Show

Opening — The stage was dotted with about a dozen mock-ups of well-known Quebec City buildings. At the foot of the stage, spectators could gaze on a sand landscape created by Guy Beauregard, representing the shore as well as a second—imaginary—city. Children were busily working to finish building this utopian city. Among them was little Julie, who would be an integral part of the show, searching for her roots. While playing in the sand, the children found a mysterious “time key,” which they planted in the center of the stage, like a flag proudly marking the foundation of their city of dreams. The key immediately triggered a giant projection on the stage… which just as quickly transformed itself into a huge sundial. Then the Sun started spinning in the sky, bringing us back to the early days of Quebec City. The existing buildings flew up into the heavens, with spectators recognizing the Château Frontenac, Place Royale and the gates to the city. It was a highly emotional moment.

1608: Samuel de Champlain’s Arrival — As the Sun danced in the sky, all the navigators lost their way and converged towards Quebec City, the center of the universe for the duration of the show. The audience excitedly watched a bevy of curious explorers setting anchor near the city, seeking new discoveries. These magical ships docked at centre stage, after which their passengers disembarked. And so began the first Quebec community—not to mention the start of a spectacular show. Once on land, the sailors quickly fell in love with place and used parts of their boat to build a huge communal home.

The Building — To celebrate the completion of the new communal home, the first inhabitants gathered in front of a living “flag.” A young man performed a balancing act on a rotating mast, illustrating that human beings formed the core of this community.

The Settlers — A treasure chest was then opened, and out came two artists who performed a scintillating rola-bola act. They were accompanied by 18 “settlers” dancing to the music, alongside little wooden men busily doing a jig.

The Nostalgic Sailor — In a peaceful moment paying tribute to quiet happiness, an old man left a small dwelling and walked to the end of the dock with little Julie. Gazing upon the immense body of water, the man whistled and spoke to the birds in the forest as he angled for fish. Suddenly, 40 fishermen emerged from the stands of the Colisée. A giant appeared among them, hauling a cart carrying the clowns and singer Francesca Gagnon. Tribute was paid to Louis Cyr, the well-known Quebec strongman born in 1863.

Trapeze-Filled Sky — Twenty-six fixed trapezes / swings dropped down to “pick up” as many artists and raise them into the sky. They were soon joined by four swinging trapeze artists who performed the second part of this act, like children swinging in a summer sky, replete with the joy of freedom.

The Harvest — An impressive act that was a fan favourite: Eight jugglers plying their trade to folklore music, accompanied by a skipping rope virtuoso, a diabolo whiz, a spoon player, a Jew’s harp player, an accordionist and eleven percussionists. Need we say that the amphitheatre was the site of a spectacular celebration? Spectators were not only clapping wildly, they were asking for more!

Sand — Much like a storytelling magician, an artist created drawings in the sand which were simultaneously projected on the stage and ceiling. A village was transformed into a sun, while a woman’s face became Samuel de Champlain. The clowns and little Julie walked through the drawing, dancing and lying down among the shapes and forms created. This performance was followed by a dynamic hand-to-hand act.

Leaves — A brilliant combination of three hoops, three Cyr wheels and one 2- Zen-O wheel gave spectators the impression of having been transported to an autumn landscape, just when the trees explode into their majestic display of fire and gold.

A High-Flying Dive — The eight jugglers were back on stage, this time brandishing fiery torches. Meanwhile, artists climbed a ladder up to the ceiling, jumping and landing on a mattress 30 metres below. The act’s highlight: An artist climbed to the top of the tower, burst into flames and then, after staying in that position for what seemed like an interminable few seconds as the audience held its collective breath, launched himself into the air to much “oohing” and “aahing.”

Floatilla of Memories — The old nostalgic sailor, like the survivor of a shipwreck, floated on a raft borne by the crowd as he watched his life pass before his eyes. The scene shifted to a succession of all the ships he had sailed on, as well as a contortionist in a giant bottle that had been cast out to sea, a singer in a rowboat and a twin of the sailor, walking down a path of mirrors held aloft by acrobats.

Winter — Four artists excited the audience with a pas de quatre, a dynamic ballet in which the dancers pushed the envelope, balancing gracefully on the arms and heads of their partners.

Unicycles — Two artists proceeded to do an acrobatic dance on a unicycle. The two lovebirds evoked the grace and power of snowflakes or figure skaters on a frozen lake. They were followed by four young trial unicycle artists who jumped up the stairs of the Colisée’s stands to end up cycling all the way around the edge of the rink!

Eternal Spring — A simply grandiose finale: On the central stage, two trampolines stacked one on top of the other appeared, incorporating four Chinese poles. On the north side of the Colisée, six artists were entertaining the crowd on Russian bars, while others—on the south side—leapt around on a teeterboard. The 40 fishermen emptied confetti from their pails as the rink was suddenly filled with jugglers, skippers, the diabolo artist and girls from the troupe twirling ribbons in celebration of the 400th anniversary in the air, all under the watchful eyes of two flying men.

The Concept

The event-show created especially for the 400th anniversary of Quebec City was nothing less than gigantic. It involved:

	o) Three weeks in the rehearsal room and five days 
	   of adaptation at the Colisée;
	o) 402 people on the production team;
	o) Over 250 costumes;
	o) 146 artists;
		- 76 artists from Quebec City;
		- 49 artists from the province of Quebec;
		- 21 foreign artists of 14 different nationalities;
	o) 70 tons of sand;
	o) 30 trapezes;
	o) 22 circus disciplines deployed in 16 tableaux;
	o) 12 children;
	o) 11 percussionists;
	o) Five days of setting up at the Colisée;
	o) Five performances that were seen by over 70,000 spectators.

The Creators

     Jean-François Bouchard     Creation Director
     Michel Laprise             Director
     Richard Lacroix            Set Designer
     Jacques Boucher            Sound Designer
     Lucien Bernèche            Costume Designer
     Alain Vinet                Music Director
     Marc Lessard               Music Arrangement
     Guy Dubuc                  Band Leader
     Martin Labrecque           Lighting Designer
     Jimmy Lakatos              Géodezik / Video Designer
     Mathieu St-Arnaud          Géodezik / Video Designer
     Raymond St-Jean            Géodezik / Video Designer
     Olivier Goulet             Géodezik / Video Designer
     Nathalie Gagné             Make-up Designer
     Jean Savoie                Props Designer
     André Simard               Acrobatic Performance Designer
     Danny Zen                  Acrobatic Equipment & Rigging
     Guy Beauregard             Sand Designer
     Paul Vachon                (l’Aubergine)/Audience Interaction
     Stéphane Boko              Choreographer
     Catherine Archambault      Choreographer – Trampoline
     Elsie Morin                Choreographer – Cyr Wheel
     Cinthia Beranek            Choreographer – Hoops
     Jean-Jacques Pillet        Choreographer – Pas de quatre
     Shana Caroll               Choreographer – Trapeze


On May 15, 2009, Cirque du Soleil participated in the largest contest of its kind in Europe: the Eurovision Song Contest. What is that? According to Wikipedia, the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competition held amongst the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which is an alliance of public service media entities, comprising 74 active members in 56 countries and 42 associate members from a further 24 countries. (It’s unrelated to the European Union.) Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally.

Eurovision has also been broadcast outside Europe to such places as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela despite the fact that they do not compete. Since 2000, the contest has also been broadcast over the Internet, via the Eurovision website. Winning the Eurovision Song Contest provides an opportunity for the winning artists to capitalize on the surrounding publicity and further their career.

The 2009 event was broadcast live from Moscow’s Olimpiysky Arena in front of a live audience of 18,000 to an estimated 200 million television and internet viewers, second worldwide only to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. And a very special performance by Cirque took place during the second semi-final gala there. Specially created for the occasion, the performance marks Cirque’s first-ever participation in the prestigious event, bringing together over 40 Cirque du Soleil performers from around the world. Using an array of music from Cirque du Soleil’s catalog (“Rideau” from Saltimbanco, and “Once Upon a Time” from La Nouba), the following acts were performed:

	o) Cyr Wheel (in Quidam German Wheel costume)
	o) Banquine (from Quidam)
	o) Fire-Knife Dance (from Alegría)
	o) Flight of Icarus (From Varekai)
	o) Hoops/Hand-balancing (in Varekai Hand-balancing costume)
	o) Fast-Track (from La Nouba)
	o) Icarian Games (from Varekai)
	o) Unicycle 
	o) The Baron (from Saltimbanco)

Cirque’s involvement was academic, of course, but showed (or perhaps proved) that Cirque was in the Special Events game for good. The next two would go on to cement that ideal…


The performance at the FIBA 2010 Opening Ceremonies is, in many ways, the quintessential Special Events experience from Cirque du Soleil: a charivari of many disciplines with costumes spanning across a number of current and past Cirque du Soleil spectacles. It’s at once overwhelming (the good kind) and overstimulating (the bad kind), too much of a hodge-podge to really ensnare the senses. For this performance, husband and wife Ric’key Pageot (piano, accordion) and Dessy Di Lauro (singer, formerly of La Nouba and Delirium) perform together in Turkey along with a small contingent of Cirque du Soleil acrobats.

The show opens with Ric’key playing the notes for Seisouso, one of Cirque’s hauntingly beautiful tunes from Quidam (normally accompanying the Aerial Hoops performance) on his piano, which Dessy later begins to sing. (It’s a little weird hearing her voice sing that song I don’t mind saying…) She bends down to pick up a basketball rolling toward her (the symbol for this performance, obviously), as a smal number of acrobats begin to fill the stage: a bicyclist rides through, two acrobats begin to ascend the stage’s telepherique to its very top (and juggle three basketballs when they reach its pinnacle), four acrobats climb aboard a mound shaped like a basketball (reminiscent of the dome in Mystère) and strike a banquine-like pose, and a monocycle duo (a la Koozå) dances about the stage with a basketball in hand. All is quiet and retrospective in this little world we’ve found ourselves in.

Then the music from La Nouba’s Power Track explodes from the ether, igniting the performers’ energy: on top of a small make-shift wall, a truncated version of Hoops/Manipulation is performed (in Quidam’s Hand-Balancing costume), a juggler in yellow manipulates three basketballs who are lit aflame, another rides a massive basketball (think Dralions) whilst also juggling a trio of balls, an Icarian Games duo appears next (in Varekai costume) to show us a few amazing moves, the banquine guys perform again (more Banquine-like moves this time), then, as Dessy climbs atop the basketball mount, three more acrobats descend from the telepherique above, spinning in their aerial hoops, a Cyr Wheel rolls across the stage (the performer in Quidam German Wheel costume), and a break-dancer spins some moves on the floor (in BMX Costume from La Nouba).

The set-piece behind the extravaganza, which has up to this point been used as a projection device, then turns into a make-shift trampoline wall a la La Nouba, whereby a contingent of acrobats fall onto, bounce and “walk” up its face. But not before a hand balancer (wearing a Varekai costume) strikes a few poses, and two guys fly in a la the Twins in Varekai (although their costume is unremarkable), whilst another four begin to jump up and down on a Korean Plank. And next, if you can believe it, Russian Swings a la Varekai swing into view, complete with scrim to jump into!


It’s definitely an assault on the senses…

Watch it for yourself here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWkAngeTw7M

CIRQUE and KINECT (2010)

In a rich green forest, the cheers of more than 3,000 poncho-clad people rose above a steady drumbeat at the moment Microsoft shared the name of its new controller-free gaming device for Xbox 360: Kinect. It wasn’t an actual forest, but a college basketball arena as imagined by a Montreal-based troupe of Cirque du Soleil performers. Previously code named Project Natal, Kinect had its most-detailed public introduction to date during the 45-minute extravaganza at the Galen Center arena in Los Angeles on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).

Microsoft approached the mega-performance troupe after realizing it wanted to announce Kinect in a “hyper-creative setting,” said Xbox general manager Rob Matthews in an interview at the time. “We said, we need to do something Cirque-esque or Cirque-like. Why don’t we call Cirque du Soleil.”

Cirque du Soleil artistic director Michel Laprise and several other crew members came to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., tried the Natal games and Laprise was “intrigued. The freedom and physicality as so strong. This is so emotional, it makes sense we are doing it.” To get across how Cirque works, Laprise says that at a planning meeting with Xbox executives in Montreal he poured a bucket of sand on the table. “Natal is a name of a beach on Brazil and our company co-founder had the idea that … on the beach this is where friends have dreams. So let’s all dream together a story that will touch the people in the room,” Laprise says.

“Then I took some rocks and said, ‘This is a story where four meteors land on Planet Earth and what is very magical is that they all fall in the same Amazon forest, the place where there is the most biodiversity. It’s not been spoiled by tech, it’s just purely orgainc. People heard about the four meteors and when (the meteors) aligned there’s a big giant monolith that came out of the center of the earth. … That attracted people from the four corners of the world and people started to interact between themselves with more friendship and more playfulness.”

That concept provided the seed for the performance, he says. About the final presentation, Laprise says, “I didn’t want it to be big. It had to be big.”

It wasn’t just big, it was huge!

The 75 dancers, musicians, and acrobats not only unveiled Kinect, but gave attendees a long, hard, never-sit-still look at Xbox 360’s newest gaming and entertainment platform. The troupe transformed themselves into a vine-and-flower-covered tribe and the arena into a lush forest with foliage and filtered light. They transformed the audience as well—the 3,000 celebrities, journalists, bloggers, and tech industry who’s who in attendance were issued white satin ponchos to wear for the evening. The college graduation-gone-Vulcan smocks provided a blank backdrop for the colorful performance until the end, when the large, pointy shoulders of each poncho illuminated, turning the audience into a sea of tiny, Xbox -green lights.

A life-sized elephant and gorilla, a family sitting on a couch suspended 80 feet in the air, pumping world music and pounding drums, 25-foot projection screens around the top of the arena, a rotating 40-foot “television screen,” a large boulder aglow with the Xbox logo—all of these effects and more were meant to help tell the (largely wordless) story of a boy on a mission to find meteors and meaning.

By the time the show began, attendees who had at first seemed bewildered by their white ponchos had relaxed and were mingling with Cirque du Soleil performers and rubbing pointy shoulders with each other, speculating on the show and what mysteries it would reveal.

In the show’s prologue, a narrator posed the notion that the future of humanity is humanity itself: “Since the dawn of time, humanity’s long journey has lead us to countless discoveries. Objects along our path have projected our way forward, but the ever-more sophisticated inventions introduced ever-more complex languages for humans to master in order to communicate with machines. With each leap forward for civilization, more people were left behind. But our quest has now taken us to a completely new horizon. History is about to be re-written. This time human beings will be at the center and the machine will be the one that adapts. After five million years of evolution, might the next step – the next object – be the absence of an object? Is it possible that the future of humanity is humanity itself?”

With the help of the dancers and acrobatics, a boy made his way from where he was sitting on a couch, through the forest and the white-clad crowd, to some large, boulder-like meteors. He scrambled up the meteors, tossing aside a traditional game controller on the way up, and as he stood on the top-most meteor, it lit up with the Xbox logo to great applause.

Standing there put the boy face-to-face with a large screen that slowly revealed an avatar of him, complete with matching clothes. After the boy and his avatar waved their arms and legs in unison, the boy asked the screen, “What’s your name?” In a flash of purple, letters appeared on the screen and arranged themselves to form the word “KINECT.” Again, more cheers from the crowd. The screen then transformed into a rotating living room, and the boy climbed inside. There, for the rest of the show, a cast of characters demonstrated the experiences that Kinect will enable.

Cirque du Soleil performers took the audience on an extended tour through multiple games that included steering a raft down river rapids; driving a car on a race course and a half-pipe; petting and interacting with a tiger cub; competing in a variety of sports including beach volleyball, track and field, and soccer. Performers also demonstrated some non-gaming experiences, including a woman enjoying yoga lessons from a virtual Kinect teacher, a family using Kinect to select a movie and take dance lessons together, and far-flung friends interacting by using video chat.

After the performance, audience members returned their white smocks and were given a Kinect tiger cub as seen in one of the games. Regardless what you might feel about Microsoft, the Kinect, or E3, this “imagining” by Cirque du Soleil was simply amazing. I wish I could have been there!

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS2_3cBjQIU
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWRO7UiDtx4
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idZuBjAa_cc

* * *

Today, Cirque du Soleil is much more than a circus performance company. It has diversified into special events for private parties, corporate swarés, and even spectacles to launch new and exciting products. While some of these creations are not the most grandiose, or as well conceived as we would like them to be (as fans of Cirque’s shows), many do break the mold and come out to show us something unique, something special, and perhaps something new. If Michel Laprise and his team were able to do these glorious things at Cirque’s Special Events team then KURIOS is in good hands. I can’t wait to see what Michel Laprise has in store for us!