Cirque du Soleil Unveils – ZED

Tokyo, Japan – October 1, 2008 – ZED, the first permanent Cirque du Soleil production in Japan, celebrates its World Premiere on October 1 at Tokyo Disney Resort®. The show is performed in the Cirque du Soleil Theatre Tokyo, a custom built theatre facility with seating for 2,170 guests. ZED was written and directed by acclaimed film and theatre director François Girard, who most recently directed the feature film Silk, and received international critical acclaim for The Red Violin.


Batons – Before the World, Fire Incantation, Meeting of the Two Worlds Combining dance and gymnastics, an artist twirls his batons as if they are an extension of his body. Demonstrating great agility and exceptional control, he spins three batons around his neck, his arms and legs. In the darkness, light or fire, he tosses and spins the batons high into the air and catches them after performing a stunning series of acrobatics.

Bungee – Birth of the Sky
Four artists suspended from bungees fall precipitously from the heights above the audience. The flexible fringes of their costumes leave trails of light in their wake.

Lassos – Birth on Earth
Six artists operate lassos with incredible dexterity. The audience feels that the circles formed by the lasso, and through which artists perform their movements, are undulating like suspended waves.

Poles and Trampoline – Reaching Up
This number combines Chinese Poles with the Trampoline. Using the trampoline as a springboard, the artists bounce high in the air, precisely criss-crossing each other on their way to grab the poles.

Solo Tissue – First Sight
In a stunning display of agility and strength, the graceful performer becomes one with the column of blue fabric that supports and cradles her female form. This breathtaking aerial dance combines elements of acrobatics, contortion and movement to create a stirring and powerful image.

Wire – Pendulum
A wire is suspended 8 meters over the floor. Above it, a mesmerizing burning pendulum swings back and forth. Pulling off amazing feats of balance and precision, tightrope walkers pass each other at a frenetic pace and perform death-defying leaps and breathtaking columns.

Juggling – Kernoun’s Fire
A father, mother and their children juggle bowling pins and plates at a dizzying speed, on the floor, in columns of two and three. The family transforms juggling into an unforgettable moment of drama using flaming torches that illuminate the stage with a huge dome of fire.

Banquine – Babel
The Banquine number highlights the extraordinary agility of the human body. The troupe mystifies the audience by performing acrobatics and human pyramids in a series of dramatic movements and perfectly synchronized crossings that depend on absolute trust.

Straps – Zed in Love
An amazing routine in which two artists use straps to bring to life the game of seduction with the character Zed. Their movements show incredible agility, balance and great strength.

Hand to Hand – Two Worlds Meet
With strength and flexibility, two artists in constant contact move almost imperceptibly to take positions that demonstrate an infallible sense of balance. In their quest for harmony, the performers rely on their intuition and concentration to present a moment of pure serenity.

Flying Trapeze – Celebration
A combined group of trapeze performers from two different family troupes came together to present a spectacularly energetic aerial ballet. Perched on two parallel platforms, they soar in acrobatic flight to reach the hands of their catchers on the trapeze.

Charivari – Charivari
The whole troupe gathers to present an acrobatic parade of strength and elegance with a series of impressive numbers that combine gymnastics and aerial acrobatics. Among the highlights in the number: human pyramids, flying and daring dives achieved through individual strength.

Clowns – Hi! Hi! Hi!, Playing the Shaman
One is a vindictive petty dictator who seeks to control everything, while the other is just plain lazy and always finds a way to do as little as possible. Together, they form an inseparable duo of buffoons with the splendid naivety and great poetry to both move us and make us laugh.


Inspired by the Fool of the Tarot, Zed is the main character in the show. Called to undergo a transformation, he is both multiple and omnipresent. The initial state of Zed is associated with the unconscious and chaos: his imbecility is obvious, but his silliness is touching because it reveals his vulnerability and naivety. By the end of the show, Zed represents consciousness, restored harmony and the reversal of the order of things through laughter.

The singer Nouit is the incarnation of the Great Goddess. Mother of the Sky and procreator of all beings who inhabit it. She represents the starry sky. Nouit expresses an infinite compassion for all beings and is an ally of Zed, whom she understands and quietly watches over making every effort to help him achieve his quest.

Inspired by the Magician of the Tarot, Abraka is a singer. He is the father of the Earth and procreator of all the creatures who inhabit it. Abraka is all-powerful but his power is earthbound and subject to the omnipotence of the Shaman. He is the guardian of the liberating, jubilant power of Zed.

The character of the singer Kernoun is inspired by the Devil in the Tarot. He reigns over the subterranean depths. His kingdom is one of fire and the Satyrs are his subjects. Kernoun embodies the troubled forces of the unconscious.

The Shaman
Inspired by the Pope of the Tarot, the Shaman carries the magic incantation of the show. He presides over the birth of Nouit and Abraka who submit to him. It is also he who awakens the elements. In him, Zed finds a guide to initiate him in the secrets of the arcana and accompany him on his path to self-realization.

Djinn accompanies the Shaman in all his appearances and opens the way wherever he goes. He is the bringer of light and fire.

Erato is a goddess of Heaven, a muse and a subject of Nouit. Bright, sparkling and divinely beautiful, she passes through the Sky like a ghost.


I found my inspiration in the world of the tarot, but also in the Italian Renaissance and the world of Leonardo da Vinci, with a nod to other painters of that time, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Raphael.” (Renée April, Costume Designer)

ZED is above all a show driven by its characters, who are inspired by the mysteries of the tarot. This rich gallery of colorful individuals gave director Francois Girard a poetic premise to build on, and the task of dressing them fell to costume designer Renée April.

ZED is the meeting of two worlds: the sky – where iridescent colors, paler shades and pearl and silver predominate – and the earth, which recalls the Italian Renaissance, with an emphasis on ochre, green, intense turquoise, gold and Venetian blue.

“I was aiming for a certain homogeneity and purity of line in keeping with the visual world of François Girard,” explains Renée April. “The 150 costumes in the show also reveal my playful side, but they are not caricatures. I work a lot through emotion and intuition. I always prefer works that project the viewer into a distant era. Even though that calls for more in-depth research, I am not trying to replicate the era in great detail. I always concentrate more on an interpretation of it.”

The Characters and Their Costumes:

The Shaman
Master of the Arcana, the Shaman wears a transparent copper-colored mesh outfit that contrasts with his black skin. White tribal patterns are painted onto his costume and he also wears a tribal headdress, a coat that is open in front and a twisted leather cape decorated with belts encrusted with small items such as stones and pieces of fur.

His costume is made from a stretch silicone material adorned with a kind of gold leaf, which makes it look as though he is wearing a huge Aztec or Inca necklace. Covered in tattoos, he is dressed in gold and turquoise blue with shades of green.

The People of the Sky
Turquoise, blue and iridescent colors predominate in these poetic characters’ costumes. They are made from a fabric that looks fragile, but is in fact very durable. It is impossible to know where the suit ends and where the skin begins. The characters look like dragonflies with large antennas or elves. The Nymphs, who also belong to this people, are dressed in chiffon and cristalette, and resemble jellyfish with fiery tails.

Nouit – The Great Goddess
The creator of the firmament, Nouit is fitted with 14 wings and a headpiece that lights up. Her costume is decorated with 400 LEDs.

Kernoun – The God of Hell
The medieval character Kernoun, who holds fire in his hands, wears laced boots and a large silk coat that turns gradually from yellow to dark brown ochre, and onto which a hundred cornettes – orange and red flowers – have been sewn. Many of them are motorized to create a ripple effect.

The Satyrs and Jugglers
These characters, who embody the indomitable forces of nature, wear “justaucorps,” costumes that reveal their muscles and bear flames that go over their heads like the horns of goat.

Abraka – King of the Earth
The magus Abraka wears a chain mail coat and a large royal collar. When he raises his arms, his four wings, which range gradually from purple to gold, spread out over 18 meters. His costume required 200 meters of cloth pleated by hand and printed with designs using a technique called sublimation, which fixes the images in the fibers of
the material. Abraka is flanked by servants who wear gold and blue Venetian livery.


“The scenic atmosphere of ZED evokes the pinnacle of the High Renaissance and the dawn of the Mechanical Age.” (—François Séguin)

The Astrolabe
To establish the set design concept, designer François Séguin started with a form inspired by the astrolabe. His underlying intention was to fill the whole stage as if it were a frame from a film, and in terms of aesthetics, his design evokes the High Renaissance and the Mechanical Age.

Brass and copper components, precision engineering, painstaking craftsmanship and scientific ingenuity combine to create the impression that the audience is actually inside – and sometimes outside – a complex mechanical astrolabe floating in space.

The set takes its inspiration from many eras and influences. Ancient science, the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, the products of the early days of the Mechanical Age, nautical instruments and astronomy all play a part in creating an atmosphere of solidity and tradition, floating in a space that looks toward the future.

Diderot’s Encyclopedia, which began to be published in 1751, also informed the designs. “Diderot, the first French encyclopedia, codified knowledge and is filled with images of mechanical devices,” says designer François Séguin.

The Scenic Environment
When the audience first enters the theatre, the set is wrapped in a large sheet and the auditorium gives no clues or visual cues as to where they are or where the show is situated.

The spectacular imagery is revealed when the cover is whisked away in a sudden, sweeping gesture by a character inspired by The Fool in the Tarot. This dramatic moment instantly plunges the audience into an environment that recalls antique astronomical and navigational instruments set in an ancient cosmos that is at the same time new and somehow familiar.

In keeping with the physical dimensions of the theatre and the themes of the show (in which one community of characters inhabits the sky and the other community is earthbound), the set emphasizes verticality as a visual reinforcement to the narrative, as well as meeting the demands of the show’s acrobatics.

While the materials are unquestionably rich, the colors – suggesting an antique patina of burnished metals and polished wood tones – are intentionally somewhat monochrome and muted, and the look is quite dark, reminiscent of 19th century interiors. The objective is to focus more attention on the performing artists than on their surroundings.

Since this is a Cirque du Soleil show, the set must also accommodate a large amount of acrobatic rigging, lighting and sound equipment, and designer François Séguin decided to integrate it into the set as much as possible, rather than impose it on the décor. His design minimizes the visibility of all the winches, rigging, cables and the setting up needed to perform complex acrobatic numbers.

Some Details:

  • Made mostly of steel, the suspended astrolabe weighs 19, 504 kg (43,000lbs).
  • The enormous 10m globe, which can move vertically, is decorated with meridians and parallels and fitted with a net that can deploy and retract as needed.
  • Winches hidden inside the globe are used to transport the artists, stage equipment and acrobatic equipment throughout the show.
  • On the floor of the stage, there is a representation of the Milky Way and symbols referring to the different phases of the moon.
  • A door leading under the stage is installed inside a book that the clowns Oulaï and Nalaï find at the beginning of the show. When they open it, they plunge inside, literally engulfed by the pages.
  • The Vortex, the white canvas that wraps the stage at the start of the show, comprises more than 5,600 square meters of material. Two motors pull it at a speed of six meters per second, making the entire surface vanish in 25 seconds.
  • During the Birth of the Sky scene, the set features a firmament of thousands of stars. To achieve this effect the vault of the Astrolabe is covered with 3,500 LEDs and the floor of the stage has more than 900 fiber optic points of light.
  • An alphabet of 26 symbols, The Zed Alpha, was created for the production. It appears in the set design and shows the periodic table of the elements as well as words related to components of the show.
  • Five spheres of various diameters, each displaying its own special effects, form a miniature representation of the Astrolabe – a micro world that reflects the macro world.

{SOURCE: Cirque du Soleil Press Room}