“A Baroque Odyssey: Cirque’s Amazing Journey” (30th Anniversary Historia)

    “Those who are able to walk on stilts can roam the earth unstopped by mountains or rivers. They are able to imagine flying and therefore to reach the Isles of the Immortals.” – P’ao-Pou Tseu

The Cirque du Soleil story is about a group of young people who wanted nothing more than the freedom to dream a dream. Beginning with a street kid from Montreal called Guy Laliberté, it’s the tale of individuals who have come forward at special moments in time to move that dream forward, and share it with the world. Fascination celebrates


In the late 1970s, Guy Laliberté attends a concert by Zachary Richard, a musician from New Orleans. The show inspires him to organize a school trip to the city, which proves to be a big success. It’s the first time he experiences bringing a group of people together for travel and entertainment, and it sets the teenager on his life path. Chance encounters occur that will galvanize the still unformulated dreams of the people who are to found Cirque du Soleil. It is a time of creative ferment and great energy in Quebec that is gathering momentum.


Guy Laliberté, barely 20, burns with a desire to entertain and travel. He leaves Montreal for the artist colony of Baie Saint-Paul where he comes together with a group of young street performers who have pooled their talent and dreams and founded “Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul” (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stiltwalkers). The stiltwalkers’ group also features fire-eaters, jugglers and other buskers. The group includes Gilles Ste-Croix, who will later become Artistic Director of Cirque. Riding the crest of the Quebec street entertainer movement—on a roll since the mid-70s—a group of young stilt-walkers, fire-eaters and assorted mountebanks is born. They are loud, eccentric, brash, impossible to avoid.


In 1982, Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix create another association to support their work with the Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul: “Le Club des Talons Hauts,” or the High-Heels Club. Through the Club, they decide to organize a street performer’s festival, La Fête Foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul. Keeping a neglected tradition alive, they walk on stilts, juggle, and breathe fire to the crowd’s obvious delight. This talented group of young Quebec street entertainers has come together under a lucky star. Although a full two years pass before Cirque du Soleil as we know it today is created, its founders say that it was at that mystic moment in Baie Saint-Paul in 1982 that Cirque du Soleil was conceived. The aurora borealis hits Baie Saint-Paul on the first day of La Fête Foraine. The sun has set but the sky is streaked with waves of otherworldly light. Green and silver refractions chase each other across the dome of the sky throughout the performance.


In 1984, with the financial assistance of the Quebec government, Cirque du Soleil is officially formed by Guy Laliberté as part of the celebrations surrounding the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Canada. Guy is inspired to choose the name by the sun itself, a symbol of youth, energy, power and light. His goal to bring together creative talent to delight new audiences in new locations takes a bold step forward.

For the festivities, the newly-formed Cirque presents a totally new concept: a striking, dramatic mix of the circus arts and street entertainment, featuring wild, outrageous costumes, staged under magical lighting and set to original music. With not a single animal in the ring, Cirque’s difference is clear from the very start. The show debuts in a little 800 seat blue-and-yellow big top in the small Quebec town of Gaspé, the very same place Mr. Cartier’s voyage took him so long ago, as he desperately tried to find a land route through to the Orient. The show was a smashing success and the artists, invigorated by its reception, took their creation on the road performing in 10 other cities throughout the province delighting 30,000 spectators.

Cirque becomes a multicultural gathering point, with performers from Quebec, Belgium, Switzerland and Argentina. The crazy dreams of a two friends begin to take wing. And maybe those dreams aren’t so crazy after all. Maybe this idea about a different kind of circus is something that audiences will respond to. Maybe it will flourish. Sometimes you just have to trust to fate and follow where your dreams lead you… Youth, boldness, instinct, vision and a certain zany talent are their stock in trade. And Cirque du Soleil hasn’t stopped since!


After performing in Montreal, Sherbrook and Quebec City, Cirque du Soleil leaves its home province for the first time to take its show to neighboring Ontario. It performs in Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls to over 137,000 spectators. The Cirque is made for travelling and the blue and yellow tent quickly becomes a symbol of Quebec youth and artistic energy.

Cirque begins to experience a burning desire to return to the circus tradition the esteem and quality it knew at the beginning of the century; therefore, Cirque welcomes Guy Caron as Artistic Director. Guy Caron brings in Franco Dragone to teach Cirque artists commedia dell’arte. Inspired by the best of what is happening internationally, Cirque creates a new theatricality and adopts a vision whereby rules exist only to be broken. The mandate is clear: to produce a European-style professional show anchored in acrobatics, with original music and without animals. From the Chinese they learn about perfecting the blend of presentation, music and choreography, about grace and beauty, gestures and smiles. Cirque draws upon an Impressionistic sensibility, takes everything that had existed in the past, and pulls it into today.

In response to all that it has learned, Cirque du Soleil stages La Magie Continue in eight cities across Canada, including Vancouver, where it puts on several performances at the Children’s Festival and universal exposition (Expo 86). Cirque du Soleil makes its name on the international stage too, as acts are awarded top honors at competitions and festivals around the world. As interest in Cirque du Soleil grows, so does the big top, which now has room for 1,500 spectators.

By the end of Le Magie Continue’s tour, over 250,000 spectators have seen the show; however, Cirque finds itself on hard financial times – the Niagara Falls stop is an attendance disaster and losses mount. Undeterred, Cirque du Soleil mounts a new tour – Le Cirque Réinventé (or We Reinvent the Circus, in English) – and visits its American neighbors for the first time. Cirque takes the biggest risk in its history by agreeing to perform at the Los Angeles Festival, without the funds necessary for a return trip home. After years of honing its craft across Québec and in cities throughout Canada, its future depends entirely on being successful in the U.S. market. The gamble pays off. Exhilarated by the Californian public’s response, Cirque du Soleil becomes an overnight success. The show is performed in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Monica to rave reviews. Cirque du Soleil even appears twice on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” program!


Cirque du Soleil returns to Santa Monica in February, travels to San Francisco in April and expands its U.S. appearances thereafter. The company now comprises 150 people! With the success of Le Cirque Réinventé on the West Coast of the United States, Cirque boldly launches a Midwest and eastern itinerary. After a brief appearance at the Calgary Winter Olympics, the blue and yellow big top pops up in the shadows of the World Trade Center in New York City, spends several weeks dazzling Toronto, then Washington D.C., Chicago and Phoenix. Wherever it goes the result is the same: the performances sell out and the critics rave.

By the end of 1988, 796,937 people have now seen Le Cirque Réinventé, including patrons in Cirque’s home town. Despite the cold Canadian winter, the company ends its 1988 tour at home in Montreal. There, as well as all over the continent, Cirque du Soleil wins many awards for its entrepreneurship and its innovative and creative spirit: including Emmy, Drama Desk, Bambi and Ace awards, Gémeaux and Félix trophies, and a Rose d’Or de Montreux. Cirque du Soleil’s performers have taken part in and won several awards at various festivals throughout the world, including the Festival international du cirque de Monte-Carlo, the Festival mondial du cirque de demain (France), the Festival international de cirque de Vérone (Italy), the Festival international de cirque de Gênes (Italy), and the Wuhan International Acrobatic Art Festival (China).

In 1989, Miami, Chicago and Phoenix are added to the tour and another 405,950 spectators revel in the performance. The Cirque is featured in Vanity Fair, Time, Life, People, Newsweek, and Maclean’s and in newspapers such as the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and USA Today. Even the major television networks are on the beat. And Cirque du Soleil keeps on rolling! The year marks the end of Cirque du Soleil’s original “five-year plan”. “What will the next five years bring?”, Cirque du Soleil asks. And would these years eclipse those that came before it?


Buoyed by its growing success, Cirque du Soleil begins attracting artists from around the world, particularly Russians whose proud circus and acrobatic tradition makes a valuable contribution. Montreal is the setting for the world premiere of Cirque’s most successful show yet, Nouvelle Expérience, in a new, 2,500-seat big top. With this new production, Cirque du Soleil shatters all previous records for ticket sales, and it decides to make its first foray into Europe, staging “We Reinvent the Circus” in London and Paris. Although not runaway successes (approximately 161,102 spectators see the show in both cities), the overseas excursions have just begun.

Franco Dragoné becomes Director, pushing Cirque’s theatricality to new limits. His impact is enormous: Franco’s theatrical vision will inform Cirque’s approach for many years to come. Key to Franco’s indelible stamp will be his successful creative association with set designer Michel Crête and, later, costume designer Dominique Lemieux. They will work together on every show until “O,” after which new creators will take up the challenge.

Suddenly it begins to happen. The show, like a reluctant spirit hounded by a posse of mediums, slowly reveals itself. An organic resonance emerges: each act finds its place, a succession of moments as fleeting as they are eternal. Long before the house lights go down and the excitement begins to build under the Grand Chapiteau, designers and craftspeople have put in months of work behind the scenes to create the perfect costumes and makeup to bring life to a cast of characters.


In 1991, Nouvelle Expérience continues on its travels across North America, opening up new cities – like Atlanta – for Cirque du Soleil. By the end of an extensive 19-month tour of Canada and the United States, 1.3 million (1,212,926) spectators have cheered the show. Long before the house lights go down and the excitement begins to build under the Grand Chapiteau, designers and craftspeople have put in months of work behind the scenes to create the perfect costumes and makeup to bring life to a cast of characters. Their work is about to pay off in ways they cannot yet imagine.

Cirque du Soleil crosses the Pacific and makes a name for itself in the Land of the Rising Sun with Fascination, a collage of the best acts from Le Cirque Réinventé and Nouvelle Expérience. The show opens in Tokyo and then moves on to seven other cities, for a total of 118 performances in four months. Over 560,000 (569,883) people see the show. Meanwhile, in Europe, Cirque du Soleil joins forces with Switzerland’s Circus Knie and stages a version of Le Cirque Réinventé (modified to include animals) in over 60 towns throughout the country. In North America, 1992 sees Cirque du Soleil make its Las Vegas debut when Nouvelle Expérience kicks off a year-long engagement under a big top at the Mirage Hotel. Already juggling several productions, Cirque du Soleil adds a monument to its repertoire of shows: Saltimbanco. Premiering in Montreal, this latest production is a celebration of life. Designed as an antidote to the violence and despair of the 20th century, this phantasmagoric show offers an alternative view of the urban environment brimming with optimism and joy.


In 1992, Nouvelle Expérience kicks off a year-long engagement under a big top at the Mirage Hotel. Having seen Cirque du Soleil in action, and following Nouvelle Expérience’s successful run at the Mirage, the president of Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas (Steve Wynn) makes an offer: why not bring Cirque du Soleil to a permanent installation in Las Vegas? Cirque responds to the challenge of staging a show outside the traditional big top and resolves, in its own words, to “plant a flower in the desert.”

On Christmas Day 1993, Mystère premieres at the Treasure Island hotel in Las Vegas, setting a new standard and changing the way live entertainment is presented in Las Vegas. Mystère’s message is universal because movement, music and humor are universal. Mystère is so richly diverse that it can be experienced over and over again, every performance revealing something new and extraordinary. Be obnoxious. Be stupid. Be sweet. Be nasty. Be masculine, feminine, and androgynous. Be amazing. By year’s end Saltimbanco completes its 19-month North American Tour of a dozen cities and receives resounding ovations from 1.4 million (1,416,359) spectators.


Cirque du Soleil celebrates its 10th anniversary by staging Alegría in 1994. True to tradition, the two-year North American tour is launched in Montreal. Meanwhile, Mystère continues to create a sensation in Las Vegas (683,294 people see the show) and Saltimbanco embarks on a six-month run in Tokyo that attracts a great deal of attention (and spectators; 557,851 see Saltimbanco in Tokyo). While Alegría pursues its triumphant North American tour, Cirque du Soleil responds to a request from the Canadian government to create a show for the heads of state gathered at the G7 Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Also in 1995, Saltimbanco sets out to conquer Europe. Cirque’s spectacular white big top with seating for 2,500 spectators makes its first stop in Amsterdam, followed by Munich, Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Vienna. Amsterdam becomes the site of Cirque du Soleil’s European Headquarters.

1996-1997: A NEW HOME

Cirque du Soleil now has three concurrent shows running: Saltimbanco, Mystère and Alegría. By April, Cirque launches its fourth – Quidam – in Montreal. After finishing its hometown run, Quidam heads off on a three-year North American tour. Meanwhile, Saltimbanco continues its European tour, with stops in London, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Antwerp, Zurich and Frankfurt, while Alegría sets out to tour Asia. Audiences flock to the Grand Chapiteaus in ever-greater numbers.

As its repertoire grows, Cirque du Soleil decides that its artists must have a single home in which to gather, create, rehearse, and dream; therefore, “The Studio”, Cirque’s new International Headquarters in Montreal, is born. The move, carried out over three weekends, goes very smoothly, and all 500+ employees are now ensconced in the new Studio. After a few last-minute adjustments, everyone is able to get down to work. All of the shows will be created and produced in the new facility. Construction of the Headquarters represented an investment of approximately 40 million dollars.

Quidam continues to capture the hearts of North American spectators, adding two new cities, Denver and Houston, to the tour. On the other side of the Atlantic: After five years of touring, the curtain falls on Saltimbanco at London’s Royal Albert Hall, marking the end of a two-year European tour (February 1, 1997). Fresh from its Asian tour, Alegría takes on Europe. And Cirque du Soleil joins forces with Pomp Duck and Circumstance, an original dinner-theatre show. Due to expansion Cirque opens up four regional headquarters: the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe (Amsterdam), and Las Vegas. Cirque sets new benchmarks with the birth of a multimedia division – Cirque du Soleil Images (replacing Télémajik) – and the announcement of two monumental projects: a feature-length film (Alegría) and a large-format (IMAX) film, which will feature performances by various Cirque du Soleil artists in natural and historic sites around the world.

1998-1999: NEW BENCHMARKS (15 Years)

While Alegría pursues its journey across Europe, Quidam finishes up its North American tour, which includes a stopover in Dallas, a first for Cirque du Soleil. During its three-year tour, almost 1,000 performances have been held under the blue-and-yellow big top. All in all, over 2,500,000 North American spectators have applauded Quidam. And unable to quash its celebration of life, Cirque du Soleil restages Saltimbanco in Ottawa for a few weeks before sending it off on an Asia-Pacific tour scheduled to last three years. In response, Singapore becomes the site of Cirque du Soleil’s Asia-Pacific headquarters.

Inspired by the success of Mystère, Steve Wynn, the president of Mirage Resorts, invites Cirque to Las Vegas to mount “O”, Cirque’s first aquatic show, in a specially constructed theatre at the Bellagio Resort. Opening in October 1998, “O” sets a new benchmark for excellence in theatrical entertainment everywhere. And after almost 10 years of discussion, Cirque du Soleil finally teams with Disney to present La Nouba in Orlando. The agreement occurs after direct intervention from Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of Disney, who concedes to Cirque’s long-maintained insistence that it retain creative control. Moreover, a custom-made theatre is built for Cirque’s unique requirements. The show opens in December to rave reviews.

While artists get used to their new home in Orlando, Saltimbanco sets up shop in Asia and the Pacific, beginning a three-year tour of the region in Sydney, Australia. In March, Quidam embarks on a four-year European tour in Amsterdam. By April, a brand new production is created in Montreal announcing the start of the next North American tour: Dralion. Dralion is an unprecedented fusion of ancient Chinese acrobatic traditions and the avant-garde approach of Cirque du Soleil, paying homage to the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – which take on human form and rule worlds defined by their individual vivid colors. The show’s creation marks the return of Guy Caron to Cirque du Soleil’s shores. And in May, Alegría, which has already dazzled audiences on three continents, finds a permanent home at Beau Rivage, a new Mirage resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. Cirque’s plans become even more ambitious with the release of its first feature film: Alegria. In the film, the magical spellbinding universe of Cirque du Soleil becomes the backdrop for a tender love story between a street performer (Frac) and the lead singer of a travelling circus (Giulietta). Franco Dragone directs. Its dynamic team also produces “Cirque du Soleil Presents Quidam”, a spectacular television version of the show to be aired around the globe.


Audiences on three continents continue to marvel at Cirque du Soleil’s four resident shows (La Nouba, Mystère, “O” and Alegría) and three touring productions (Saltimbanco, Quidam and Dralion); in the year alone, close to 6 million spectators will attend Cirque du Soleil shows worldwide. By October, Alegría leaves its home at the Beau Rivage and prepares to embark on an Asia/Pacific tour beginning in Australia. Dralion continues to make its way across North America and provides yet another backdrop for a special TV Production, which earns Cirque du Soleil three Primetime Emmy Awards the following year.

Cirque’s performances continue to be a unique balance of physical strength, art and beauty, deeply ingrained with audacity. With Gilles’ historic stilt walkathon from Baie-Saint-Paul to Quebec City, Guy Caron’s artistic instincts, and Guy Laliberté’s go-for-broke gambling spirit, it’s been there from the beginning. It’s stitched into the very fabric of the Grand Chapiteau.

But Cirque also begins looking beyond live entertainment for new means to share their which wonder, joy and creativity. After a grand premiere in Berlin in January, the Cirque launches its first-ever large-format IMAX production in North America by May: Cirque du Soleil – Journey of Man (“Passages” in French). Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, after a grand premiere in the film will opens in Montreal, New York and Los Angeles before moving on to other markets.

Since 1984, more than 23 million people from around the world have seen one of Cirque du Soleil’s productions. On a typical weekend in 2000, some 50,000 people will see one of Cirque’s several shows being staged simultaneously around the world. Cirque employed more than 2,100 people, including 500 performers, from several countries. The average age of Cirque du Soleil employees is 32.


Guy Laliberté declares 2001 the beginning of “Cirque du Soleil, Volume 2.”

Cirque du Soleil keeps on growing with the inauguration of a 14,000-square-metre addition to its International Headquarters in Montreal. In addition, Alegría kicks off a three-year tour of the immense Asia-Pacific region in Auckland, New Zealand. Six other shows continue to dazzle audiences across the world: Saltimbanco in Japan, Mystère in Las Vegas, «O» in Las Vegas, La Nouba at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Quidam in Europe, and Dralion in the United States.

On October 30, 2001, Cirque du Soleil released its entire show catalogue onto DVD: La Magie Continue, Le Cirque Réinventé, Nouvelle Expérience, and Saltimbanco as well as Journey of Man and Baroque Odyssey (the 10th Anniversary documentary). A few days later, “Cirque du Soleil presents: Alegría”, a special 90-minute television production of its signature show, premieres on TV. And, by year’s end, 6 million people or more will have attended a Cirque show worldwide.


Cirque du Soleil wows its largest audience ever when it presents a one-of-a-kind performance at the 74th Annual Academy Awards held on March 24, 2002 at Grumman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California. The reaction is electrifying, breaking records at Cirque du Soleil’s website.

A month later, Varekai, directed by first-time Cirque director Dominic Champagne in collaboration with twelve other talented creators, began its journey, joining Dralion across North America. During the creation process, a film crew shot a reality-TV series about some of the show’s performers and their struggles during its development. The series – Fire Within – would air the following year.

In June, Alegría returned to North American soil for a two-year long run in select cities across Canada, the United States and, for the first time in history, in Latin America – Mexico. Alegría is later joined by Quidam, while Saltimbanco continued playing to audiences throughout Europe. And by year’s end, an announcement of yet another resident show for Las Vegas had many fans’ appetite whet for something a little more risqué – Zumanity, another side of Cirque du Soleil.


After touring select cities across the United States and Canada, Quidam once again bids adieu to North America and embarked on a year-long tour of Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, visiting Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. Alegría continued its second North American Tour, joining Varekai and Dralion.

In cooperation with Cirque du Soleil Images, the television documentary series “Fire Within” airs in the United States; an intimate and revealing behind-the-scenes look at the effort and struggles during the creation of Varekai. The series wins an Emmy award plus two Gemini awards. The show – Varekai – itself was filmed late in its run in Toronto and released to home markets in autumn. And while Quidam tours Japan throughout the year, by summer (July) the adults-only show ZUMANITY premieres at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Created by Dominic Chapagne and René Richard Cyr, it’s the first Cirque du Soleil production for adults only. Zumanity joines Mystère and «O» on the Las Vegas Strip.

By year’s end, Cirque du Soleil films “Solstrom”, a 13-part family-oriented television variety series that merges acrobatic acts with dramatic comedy, features over 250 artists in over 130 acts from many of Cirque du Soleil shows and includes a number of celebrity guest performances.

2004-2005: SOLEIL DE MINUIT (20 Years)

Cirque celebrates its 20th anniversary in the streets of their hometown through a spectacular live musical event. A recording of this event is later broadcast under the name “Midnight Sun” (Soleil de Minuit) and released onto DVD. During the festivities Cirque sets a new record for the Guinness Book of World Records gathering 544 employees at Headquarters to stilt walk. In business, Cirque du Soleil Musique is launched in September. It is a record company dedicated to the creation, production, and marketing of the music associated with current and future Cirque du Soleil shows, and to the career development of emerging artists from around the world.
On tour, Dralion leaves North America bound for Europe at the beginning of the year, where it will complete an extensive multi-year tour. Alegría continued its North American Tour, but by year’s end, the show is bound for Tokyo and the rest of Japan. Quidam, which would end its Japanese Tour in the early months of the year, returned to Canada for a two-city run before embarking on a year-long tour throughout Australia/New Zealand. And, in November, the biggest most epic show in Cirque’s history is born. Directed by Robert LePage, KÀ is launched at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The following year, Celebrity Cruises unveils a unique concept of on-board entertainment developed by Cirque du Soleil on two of its cruise ships. This concept, “The Bar at the Edge of the Earth”, featured unique dining fare with a Cirque du Soleil flair. Cirque also created and performed the special “Reflections in Blue” (Réflexions de bleu), a unique one-night water show as part of the opening ceremonies for the XI FINA World Aquatics Championships in Montreal, Canada. And the first touring show in three years is launched in Montreal. Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, the Italian-born director takes Cirque du Soleil through the funeral of a clown in Corteo. Cirque du Soleil Images films Corteo during its Toronto stop-over, later premiering on CBC/BRAVO and released onto DVD.


Taking the stage in January is DELIRIUM. Created and directed by Michel Lemieux & Victor Pilon, this interesting concept features remixed Cirque music and the company’s signature acrobatic style melded to create a musical experience unmatched. DELIRIUM would begin touring arenas throughout the United States before hopping the pond to Europe. Later in the year, LOVE, a creation celebrating the musical legacy of The Beatles opens at The Mirage Casino-Hotel in Las Vegas. The show becomes Cirque’s fifth resident show in Las Vegas and the first official collaboration with the BEATLES since their last public performance on January 30, 1969. LOVE features a first for Cirque du Soleil – no live music – using original Beatles tracks mixed and re-arranged by Sir George Martin and his son Giles Martin.

During this time, after touring in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, Cirque du Soleil has set out to make a name for itself in South America by presenting its show Saltimbanco in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Saltimbanco, after conquering South America, ends its almost 15 years on tour under the grand chapiteau in Rio de Janiero. Meanwhile, La Nouba celebrates its 5 Millionth Guest and the company attempts to create a new version of Zumanity for Miami Beach.By year’s end, Cirque du Soleil enters into an exclusive agreement with CKX Inc. — through its subsidiary Elvis Presley Enterprises — for the creation, development, production and promotion of Elvis Presley projects, featuring touring and resident shows, as well as multimedia interactive “Elvis experiences,” throughout the world. The first of these projects is slated to debut in 2009 at the MGM City Center complex in Las Vegas.


DELIRIUM concludes its two-year tour in the United States and begins wowing audiences in some never-before-visited cities across Europe. The premiere of Koozå in April launches Cirque du Soleil’s 13th touring production (18th overall) since 1984. Directed by David Shiner, Koozå returns Cirque du Soleil to its acrobatic roots. Saltimbanco is re-staged in the arena format and begins touring the United States and Canada by summer. And in November, Wintuk, Cirque du Soleil’s first “seasonal” show (as it runs for a few short weeks in the winter) premieres at Madison Square Garden’s WAMU Theater.

In media, Cirque du Soleil releases three documentary DVDs: “The Mystery of Mystère”, “FLOW: A Tribute to the Artists of «O»” and “A Thrilling Ride through Koozå”, which take us behind the scenes of these fascinating shows. Cirque presented a Pre-Game Show at Super Bowl XLI, the American football game to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2006 season at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. This performance was produced by David Saltz. And Cirque du Soleil has also launched a fiction/non-fiction book entitled The Spark, which invites readers to discover the power of creativity and imagination and apply it in their own lives. Written by John Bacon and based on an original idea by Lyn Heward, the book is distributed in several countries.

In business, Cirque du Soleil announced that it is partnering with Nakheel (the world’s top private property developer) with a view to creating the first resident show on The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, in 2011. The following year, Istithmar World Capital, the investment arm of Dubai World, and Nakheel acquired a 20% stake in Cirque du Soleil. And, on September 25th, Cirque du Soleil’s contortionists, Natasha Patterson (10), Julie Bergez (14), and Dasha Sovik (15) who perform in Koozå, set a new Guinness World Record for the Highest Circus Act ever performed at the top of Toronto’s CN Tower, the World’s Tallest Freestanding Tower. This feat was performed in the Glass Floor observation deck, 342 meters (1,122 feet) above the ground and as high up on Toronto’s CN Tower.


Having conquered North America, Europe and Australia, Cirque du Soleil looks to expand its presence throughout Asia in a huge way. First, through the launch of two new resident shows – the first shows of their kind outside the United States of America: ZAIA, a production for The Venetian Hotel & Casino on the Cotai Strip in Macao, China; and ZED, a production for the Tokyo Disney Resort in Tokyo, Japan.

In order to further finance the company’s goals, Cirque du Soleil sells a 20% stake in the company to two investment groups out of Dubai. The agreement allows Cirque to keep control of their creative challenges and operations while accelerating their growth doing projects all over the world. Nakheel and Istithmar are part of Dubai World, a diversified holding company owned by the government of Dubai. The company also unveiled long term plans to establish its brand in Russia, through the creation of Cirque du Soleil Rus., a Russian LLC company having the exclusive rights to the Russian territory.

Also launched was “Criss Angel – beLIEve” at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the first production to involve a celebrity and star in his own right. DELIRIUM, which held its last concert in London on April 19th, finds its way into movie theatres for a big-screen format special.

Cirque du Soleil’s tribute to The Beatles ”A Day In The Life” and Carol Woods & Timmy Mitchums (from “Across the Universe”) performance of “Let It Be” garners attention at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California. And Cirque also performs “Awakening of the Serpent” for Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain.

2009: LE RÊVE CONTINUE (25 Years)

Alegría, which has wowed millions under the grand chapiteau across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America, begins life anew in arenas this year. Like Saltimbanco before it, Alegría embarks on a new two-year North American tour.

To celebrate Cirque du Soleil’s 25th anniversary, a new touring show featuring insects, Brazilian music and vibes premieres in Montreal. Directed by Debra Colker, OVO is a headlong rush into a colorful ecosystem teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement. The publication of a book on Cirque costumes and the launch of a double CD containing a music compilation, are among other commemorative activities of this anniversary.

Guy Laliberté also becomes the first Canadian private space explorer. Under the theme Moving Stars and Earth for Water, this Poetic Social Mission in space aimed at touching people through an artistic approach: a special 120-minute webcast program featuring various artistic performances unfolding in 14 cities on five continents, including the International Space Station is had, all to raise awareness on water issues facing humankind on planet earth. The “mission” brings about the formation of ONE DROP.

Cirque also branches out into the realm of fitness with the launch of an innovative gym workout – JUKARI Fit to Fly. JUKARI makes fitness fun again by introducing a new way to move in a gym workout and is accessible to all women, regardless of fitness levels. The hour-long workout has been created on a specially-designed piece of equipment called the FlySet. The result is a workout that gives the sensation of flying while strengthening and lengthening the body through cardio, strength, balance and core training.


During this period, Cirque du Soleil launches six new production (three per year): VIVA ELVIS, presented at ARIA Resort & Casino, becomes Cirque du Soleil’s seventh resident show in Las Vegas; BANANA SHPEEL, Cirque’s twist on Vaudeville, arrives at the Beacon Theatre after a preview run at Chicago Theatre; TOTEM, a look at human evolution by director Robert LePage, celebrates its world premiere in Montreal; ZARKANA, written and directed by acclaimed film and theatre director François Girard, begins its run at the legendary Radio City Music Hall in New York City; IRIS, written and directed by director-choreographer Philippe Decouflé, is created exclusively for the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center; and Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, written and directed by Jamie King, begins touring in arenas throughout North America. In other arenas: Cirque du Soleil’s Founder – Guy Laliberté – gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the company holds a presence at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, helps Microsoft launch “Project Natal” (Kinect), partners with Cirque Éloize, exhibits its costumes through a special tour (Dream Weavers), launches a highly successful party in the streets of Quebec City (Les Chemins Invisibles), and more!


Although Cirque du Soleil would launch Amaluna, a new touring show in Montreal, collaborate with pop star Madonna in the scope of her performance at the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show, and find itself on the IMAX screen through the efforts of James Cameron (Worlds Away 3D), the company’s unprecedented run of opening new shows in an uncertain global economy would finally catch up with the entertainment company. Cirque announces it will slash a number of positions citing tough economic times and out of control expenses. A problem, Cirque spokeswoman Renée-Claude Ménard admitted, the company had avoided facing for several years, but now had no choice. In addition to the layoffs, Cirque said it would be closing shows to trim expenses.

  1. ZAIA closes in early 2012 following the down-turn in the global economy (and lack-luster ticket sales during its run.) Some suggest Cirque du Soleil did not come to understand its Asian audience, as the show was never popular.
  2. VIVA ELVIS, which held a lot of promise at the time of its 2009 launch, was unable to find an audience (many reviews were poor) and was closed at the end of summer 2012 at the behest of its host hotel, Aria.
  3. SALTIMBANCO, at the end of a magnificent 20-year run – and two previous rebirths – is placed on hiatus (effectively closing the show) at the end of 2012. Although Saltimbanco’s closing might be viewed as cost-saving measure (Cirque was not profitable in 2012), the show had been rumored to close for some time.
  4. IRIS, despite phenomenal reviews and enthusiastic audience response, demand for tickets had not met projections, thus the show held its final performance on January 19, 2013.
  5. ALEGRIA, a true victim of Cirque du Soleil’s budget woes, was closed rather unceremoniously in Spain on December 22, 2013.

The Cirque family would also face hardships outside of its financial struggles, when a tragedy took 31-year-old artist Sarah Guyard-Guillot’s life unexpectedly during a live performance of KÀ. Though the death was ruled an accident, a faulty harness clip was determined to be the root cause. Her death – and other artist injuries around the same time – would shake Cirque’s confidence in its safety procedures. KÀ would go dark for several weeks. Although Guyard-Guillot’s death was the first such reported from an accident onstage in the company’s 30-year history, there were a number of bright spots for Cirque to celebrate as well.

Following in the successful footsteps of Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, and after much anticipation throughout the entertainment community, the Michael Jackson’s estate and Cirque unveiled Michael Jackson ONE, directed by Jamie King, to be presented exclusively at Mandalay Bay. Michael Jackson ONE would join a newly transplanted ZARKANA at Aria as Cirque’s newest shows in Las Vegas. ONE NIGHT FOR ONE DROP would also make its debut. For one extraordinary night, and in an unprecedented manner, seven Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas resident productions became one for ONE DROP, the non-profit organization established by Guy Laliberté for the conservation of water. The evening featured more than 230 artists (and other guest performers) in an once-in-a-lifetime performance on World Water Day, Friday, March 22, 2013, at the “O” Theatre at Bellagio Resort & Casino.

Cirque was active outside of Las Vegas too: SCALADA, a unique and free outdoor event, was developed by Cirque for the Principality of Andorra; its acrobats helped introduce the Infinity Q50 in one of the more creative car reveals during the North American International Auto Show; and, debuts DREAMSEEKER, a visually-stunning float for the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

2014 – WALKING A TIGHT ROPE (30 Years)

After suffering a number of setbacks, show closings, and layoffs of 400+ of its creative staff in recent years, where does Cirque go from here? Anywhere it pleases, it seems, and without delay. From the launch of KURIOS: CABINET OF CURIOSITIES (the company’s 35th production) to the numerous partnership announcements it’s already made, the Cirque has a number of opportunities already lined up:

First, Saban Brands and Cirque du Soleil Media enter into a pact to develop a children’s-entertainment property based on elements from the live-entertainment company’s long-running productions. The deal includes a new television series, web content, interactive content, and merchandise, appropriate for children at the pre-school level or older.

Next, Cirque announces the creation of a new division – Cirque du Soleil Theatrical – which will develop unique theatrical opportunities for the Cirque. Based on traditional theatrical practices, these new productions will be created using the Cirque du Soleil signature style and aesthetic but will provide a very different experience for Cirque du Soleil audiences. This new division will be based in New York City and will continue to promote Cirque du Soleil’s on-going strategy of diversifying its content and live-entertainment activities worldwide.

Then, Cirque du Soleil and Grupo Vidanta (a leading developer of world-class resorts and tourism infrastructure in Mexico) announces plans to introduce a new brand of cultural and culinary entertainment to Mexico and Latin America: a brand-new show. JOYÀ, the 70-minute show will be performed eight times a week year-round in the custom-built, 600-seat Vidanta Theater currently under construction across the street from Grupo Vidanta’s complex of four resorts (Grand Luxxe, Grand Bliss, Grand Mayan and Mayan Palace) in the Riviera Maya between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

And most recently, a partnership agreement with Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron to develop an arena-touring show inspired by the world of AVATAR. This “live experience”, announced during the international business C2MTL– Commerce + Creativity Conference in Montreal, is slated to debut sometime late 2015, featuring the creative signature drive of Cirque du Soleil in association with Cameron’s and Jon Landau’s Lightstorm Entertainment. Although nobody knows what we’re in store for, the show is expected to debut before the first of three upcoming AVATAR sequels.

Where Cirque du Soleil will go next is anyone’s guess!

# # #

The international success story known as Cirque du Soleil is, above all, the story of a remarkable bond between performers and spectators the world over. For at the end of the day, it is the spectators who spark the creative passions of Cirque du Soleil. So long as we keep our sense of excitement at discovering new paths, we’ll never lose our determination to share that excitement with every audience, at every performance.

Today, we have our place in the sun and a roof over our heads, but once upon a time the street was our home. I would say we took a little dusty carpet and shook it out pretty well we’ve shown the world that under the dust, something exceptional is coming out of contemporary circus. My mission has not yet been accomplished. I still have a lot of entertaining to do.

As the future approaches, Cirque prepares to embark on new projects and connect with new audiences everywhere. Dreams never die. Come along as they take on new forms! (Guy Laliberte)