Mysteré, Alegria, O, Zumanity, LOVE, and Iris come to mind when thinking about the whimsical and often capricious performance troupe, Cirque du Soleil. With fanciful choreography, elaborate costumes, live music, and themed story lines, these human performers defy gravity with their over-the-top acrobatics, and captivate the soul with sensual allure. Bringing wonder and awe to over 100 million audience members worldwide, Cirque has developed from a small Canadian street act to a multimillion dollar headlining Vegas company. Representing over 50 countries with their eclectic array of talented artists, they have embodied a synthesis of global circus elements infused with fundamental ballet influences and cinematic soundtracks, making them a truly unique and fascinating live performance.
Creator, Guy Laliberte, has turned lofty dreams into an enchanting reality over the last 30 years through his colorfully avant-garde compositions. What began as an idea inspired by his love for travel and pleasure in entertaining people, Cirque Du Soleil has grown into an extraordinary experience that combines both passions. Now the C.E.O of his famous Cirque enterprise worth over $1 billion, Laliberte began the performance troupe in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Quebec, Canada. It was 1977 when the young 18-year-old Laliberte left home to travel Europe with an accordion and less than $1,000 to his name. After his worldly adventure, he returned to Baie-Saint-Paul and joined Lés Échassier de Baie-Saint-Paul, a stilt-walking street theatre group started by Gilles Ste-Croix. Laliberte learned how to walk on stilts, breathe fire, and perform in front of large crowds. The town praised the troupe for their local performances, and consequently, Laliberte began organizing street festivals and performance art exhibitions. His passion for entertainment made up for the meager sandwiches and donations he received as payment. In 1982, the troupe launched a weekend event called La Fete foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul for street artists from all over the world to meet, exchange ideas, and perform in the streets. This became an annual event until 1984 when Laliberte and his troupe received their big break.
The Canadian government was celebrating the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada when Laliberte’s troupe was asked to develop “an artistic concept,” for the festivities. Laliberte tells Fortune Magazine,”It was our dream to create our own circus.” He received $1 million from the Canadian government to produce and choreograph his new conceptual circus show, Cirque du Soleil (“Circus of the Sun”). With 73 employees, Cirque Du Soleil made its debut performance in Quebec under a blue and yellow circus top that seated 800 guests. The show consisted of 10 variety acts including trapeze artists, clowns, and contortionists. Their contract with the Canadian government also extended their event into a year-long tour across 15 cities in the province of Quebec. Laliberte explains that after their first tour he knew that the only way to succeed was if the troupe left Canada during the winter months. Knowing it was going to be expensive to travel outside the country, Laliberte was determined to be financially supported in order to make the move. Over the course of two weeks, he met with over 20 banks and local vendors. He finally found a community bank that was willing to take a risk on his relatively unknown performance troupe, Cirque du Soleil, and was granted a credit line of $350,000. This money allowed Laliberte and his performers to travel to California where they were invited to showcase their talents at the Los Angeles Festival of the Arts. Laliberte negotiated his way into being the opening act, and as a result, wowed the crowd. Their American debut was such a success that Cirque landed a multimillion dollar tour throughout the United States, performing in such places as Santa Monica and New York City.
Since their grand entrance into the world of performance art, Cirque du Soleil has grown into a 5,000 employee operation worldwide with over 1,300 artists. Captivating audience members, each show cements compelling bonds between the artists and spectators. Cirque Du Soleil reveals that their Montreal International Head Office is an “international laboratory of creativity, where our world’s best creative minds, craftsmen, experts on various domains and performers can collaborate on creative projects.” The main mission of Cirque is to “invoke the imagination, provoke the senses, and evoke the emotions of people around the world.” In 2013, Cirque expects 15 million people to attend their productions, and will simultaneously present 20 new shows globally. One of the most anticipated debuts is Michael Jackson One, a performance dedicated to the music and artistry of the late Michael Jackson. The show is set to open May 23, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
In addition to their eccentric live performances, Cirque is also forging an effort to create a new era for themselves. In December 2012, the company partnered with Paramount Pictures to release Worlds Away, a 3D film produced by James Cameron (Avatar) and directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek) that takes viewers on a visual escape through Cirque du Soleil’s realm of infinite possibilities. Creating an immersive experience in an imaginative land, Worlds Away follows two lovers as they enter the fantastic world of Cirque du Soleil and combines seven of their top Vegas acts, fusing the music and choreography of O, Ka, Mystére, Believe, LOVE, and Zumanity.
Aside from their productions both live and on-screen, Cirque du Soleil is also giving back to their international community by taking part in organizations that promote the development, recognition, and preservation of circus arts. They serve as an advisor to the Federation Mondiale du Cirque, an organization lead by Princess Stephanie of Monaco to restore and preserve the culture of circus life. Cirque also participates in circus festivals and conferences to shed industry knowledge to those hedging forward, and often scout for rising talent. The company has also taken an initiative to improve the environment through their implemented sustainability policy. The company pledges to use preventive measures to reduce the environmental impact of their products and services, take the environment into account when making business decisions, and concentrate on water and waste management, air quality, and education awareness. One of the most uplifting and emotionally riveting companies, Cirque du Soleil has earned a legendary status for their circus inspired performance art. Offering a playground for effervescent and luminous creativity, Cirque sparks imaginative magic in the minds of all visual beholders. Journeying into the depths of the subconscious, each show takes viewers on an escapade through gallant territory. With countless shows and performance dates, Cirque du Soleil is a must-see troupe for anyone who appreciates the arts.