For its Next Act, Cirque Goes to China

Lamarre5 AFTER entertaining millions of people in dozens of countries over the years, China offers a new realm of possibilities for acrobatic dance troupe Cirque du Soleil.

During his visit to China earlier this month, Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre confirmed the entertainment company’s expansion plans in China. In April, Fosun, China’s leading investment group, joined American investment firm TPG to become one of Cirque du Soleil’s largest strategic partners in a deal that will facilitate its global business development. This strategic partnership will enable Cirque du Soleil to access the Chinese market more quickly with unique, high-quality productions.

“Only a year after joining Cirque as a strategic partner, Fosun has already opened several doors for us in the Chinese market, allowing us today to announce the next phase of our international growth,” Lamarre said while in Shanghai.

Cirque du Soleil, the world’s leading producer of spectacular live entertainment, also provided an update on the creation of its first permanent show in China. The production, which is being created and produced by Cirque in partnership with Hangzhou Xintiandi Group Co Ltd, will bring together creative elements and artists from the East and the West in an immersive experience that will surround and surprise the audience.

The production will offer spectators the possibility of two different experiences, depending on where they sit in the theater, which is currently under construction in the Xintiandi District of Hangzhou. The show is expected to premiere in November 2018.

In addition to its permanent show in Hangzhou, Cirque du Soleil confirmed an upcoming China tour for its show “Toruk — The First Flight,” inspired by James Cameron’s film “Avatar.” The show, which has been touring in North America since its world premiere in Montreal in 2015, will come to China in early 2018.

As President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Canada Inc, Lamarre is in charge of strategies at both the business development and operations level. He also oversees the organization’s financial sustainability and the perpetuation of its culture and values. Prior to joining the company, he worked for nearly a decade as a journalist while pursuing his studies in communication.

He was kind enough to sit down for an interview with Shanghai Daily during his recent visit to the city.

Q: In what aspects will you cooperate with Fosun in the Chinese market?

A: Fosun is now a shareholder of Cirque du Soleil, which is going to become an accelerator for our growth in China. We will have a lot of projects that will come up in the next few months. The first one is going to be the opening of our permanent show in Hangzhou. We have developed a concept for the show. We are hiring artists and developing the design of the theater, and hopefully we will open by the end of 2018. The other thing is that we are also planning to come out in early 2018 with “Toruk — The First Flight,” our touring show that was done with (“Avatar”), and now with Fosun. They help me see China with Chinese eyes. And they have a good understanding of the country. Now we are trying to identify all the cities where we can tour with our big shows, and we are also trying to identify the cities where we can have a permanent show. Hangzhou is great, but we also think there is potential in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. We have been talking to people in Xi’an, Sanya and other cities as well. So right now we are developing and clarifying our strategy in China with the support of Fosun.

Q: There are some Chinese performers in your circus. What is your comment on them?

A: First of all, they are the best. So much so that Chinese artists account for 20 percent of all artists in Cirque du Soleil’s 19 shows worldwide. Chinese artists have contributed in a big way to the success of Cirque du Soleil. Compared with other artists, they have better discipline, they train harder and they are just the best performers in the world.

Q: With so many entertainment options today, traditional performances like acrobatics and circuses are facing new challenges in many countries, including China. What are your suggestions for artists and producers?

A: First of all, we are not a traditional circus, we are a spectacle. What I mean by that is that we use a lot of new technologies, we have original music, we have original costumes, we do original choreography, and we bring something that is very different from a traditional circus. We are much more theatrical, and we spend more money on the production of our shows because we want to attract a broader audience, particularly here in China where there are a lot of good traditional circuses. We don’t want to compete with them. They have their own market, and that’s good. We want to offer something else, and bring diversity in terms of content to the Chinese audience.

Q: In your view, what makes your company so successful and so popular?

A: We have grown our company market by market, you know. We started in Canada, then in the US and then in Europe; and now in emerging markets like Brazil, Russia and in Asia. We became a global brand by developing country by country. Obviously a lot of international tourists are going to Vegas, so Vegas has also contributed to our reputation by having the most spectacular shows presented there. That is how we have built the brand, and now we are hoping to build our brand in a much faster way in China.

Q: As president and CEO, what kind of experiences do you enjoy most from your work? Could you share with us some of your thoughts on management?

A: I think I have been blessed to have the opportunity to deal with the Beatles for a Beatles show in Vegas, to deal with Michael Jackson for a Michael Jackson show, and to deal most recently with best producer in the movie business, James Cameron. That, for me, brought the brand of Cirque du Soleil … to the next level. That’s the first thing. As for my experience of management, I think it is very important that if you manage a cultural organization, then you are not a traditional business guy. You have to love artists, you have to love creators, you have to love shows. Again I am very lucky because I love the artists, I love our creators, and that is what makes my management role different from that in a traditional business.

Q: You used to work as a journalist. Was that a rewarding experience for you?

A: You know the best thing about journalism … is that you have the opportunity to see a lot of different types of people, and you are learning all the time. What I did during my years as a journalist was learn, learn and learn — and that helped me decide what I wanted to be in the future. It was very helpful. I would advise everybody who has the opportunity to be a journalist first. It is an experience that will help you become a good manager after.

Q: Do you like Chinese arts and theater? What kinds of art in China have amazed you?

A: I love China in general, so that is why I am spending so much time here. I love Chinese art, and I have been very impressed by the director of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics (Zhang Yimou). Yeah, I’ve met with him, this guy is amazing, and he is bringing the movie business and the entertainment business to world recognition.

{ SOURCE: Shanghai Daily | }