Cirque du Soleil (French for "Circus of the Sun", in English ) is an entertainment empire based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada located in Saint-Michel, and founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier.

Initially named Les Échassiers they toured Quebec in 1980 as a performing troupe and encountered financial hardship that was relieved by a government grant in 1983 as part of 450th celebrations of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. The multiple permanent Las Vegas shows alone play to more than 9,000 people a night—5% of the city's visitors—adding to the 70+ million people who have experienced Cirque. Cirque's creations have been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, including Bambi (prize), Rose d'Or, three Gemini Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2004, Interbrand's poll of brand names with the highest global impact ranked Cirque du Soleil as number 22.

Company history Rectify


Madame Enterprise with a little girl at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

Seeking a career in the performing arts, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté toured Europe as a Folk musician and Busker after quitting college. By the time he returned back home to Canada in 1979, he had learned the art of Fire breathing. Although he became "employed" at a hydroelectric power plant in James Bay, his job ended after only three days due to a Labour strike. He decided not to look for another job, instead supporting himself on his unemployment insurance. He helped to organize a summer fair in Baie-Saint-Paul with the help of a pair of friends named Daniel Gauthier and Gilles Ste-Croix.

Gauthier and Ste-Croix were managing a performing artist's youth hostel named Le Balcon Vert at that time. By the summer of 1979, Ste-Croix had been developing the idea of turning the Balcon Vert, and the talented performers that lived there, into an organized performing troupe. Although the talent was plentiful, they lacked the funding to make their idea a reality. As part of a publicity stunt to convince the Quebec government to help fund his production, Ste-Croix walked the fifty-six miles from Baie-Saint-Paul to Quebec on stilts. The ploy worked, giving the three men the money to create Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul. Employing many of the people that would later make up Cirque, Les Échassiers toured Quebec during the summer of 1980.


A young girl getting her face painted at Cirque's Fēte Foraine.

Although well received by audiences and critics alike, Les Échassiers was a financial failure. Laliberté spent that winter in Hawaii plying his trade while Ste-Croix stayed in Quebec to set up a nonprofit holding company named "The High-Heeled Club" to mitigate the losses of the previous summer. In 1981 they met with better results. By the fall of 1981, Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul had broken even. The success inspired Laliberté and Ste-Croix to organize a summer fair in their hometown of Baie-Saint-Paul.

Several factors prevented Cirque from going bankrupt that year. The Desjardins Group, which was Cirque du Soleil's financial institution at the time, covered about two-hundred thousand dollars of bad checks. Also, a financier named Daniel Lamarre who worked for one of the largest public relations firms in Quebec represented the company for free, knowing that they didn't have the money to pay his fee. The Quebec government itself also came through again, granting Laliberté enough money to stay solvent for another year.

An artistic difference caused Guy Caron to leave the company in 1988. The disagreement was over what to do with the money generated by Cirque du Soleil's first financially successful tour. Laliberté wanted to use it to expand and start a second show while Caron wanted the money to be saved, with a portion going back to the National Circus School. An agreement was never met and Caron, along with a large number of artists loyal to him, departed. This stalled plans that year to start a new touring show.

Idealistic or not, Saltimbanco, which come from the Italian saltare in banco, meaning literally "to jump on a bench", was well received. Featuring 47 artists, the cast has been assembled from the citizens of fifteen different countries. This is, to date, the longest running show that Cirque du Soleil has ever produced. It has run for fifteen years and has toured North and South America, Europe, Japan and the Asia-Pacific Rim. Dragone wanted this show to be dark and heavy; "At one point," Dragone said "I was with Guy Laliberté at a restaurant in one of the Las Vegas casinos, and I told him the next show would be sad, heavy, really hard: ' Alegría! Alegría! Alegría!' It's Italian for 'Joy! Joy! Joy!' Where I come from, it's what you say when you're in pain. It means life goes on."

Show designers Michel Crête and Franco Dragone wanted to find a new way of incorporating the acrobatic equipment onstage. One of the ways they did this in Quidam was to design an overhead rigging system that would allow the performers to enter and exit from above and across the stage. The system also allowed the ability to suspend cast members in the air using harnesses safely for extended periods of time.

Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, the founder of the Swiss clown troupe Teatro Sunil, Cortéo takes place on a pair of large divided and moving stages, each comprised of a large turntable which is in diameter. Each of these two stages is covered by a large curtain with a painting on it called the "Cortéo Procession".

"O" Rectify

At the Bellagio Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Cirque created its tenth production and second resident show. Once again working with hotel entrepreneur Steve Wynn, Cirque du Soleil and Wynn financed a 70 million dollar theater within the hotel. As the company was getting more comfortable with theater productions, they wanted to create a show performed in the water, a concept not tried in a theater before.

To support the needs of the performers who would be getting in and out of the water, A directed HVAC system was created for this theater to control the heat and humidity generated by the approximately 84 degree water. Blowers were built into the stage to keep warm air circulating on the stage while a silent air movement system carried air at 55 degrees Fahrenheit underneath every seat in the theater. The combined systems keep both the performers and the audience at a comfortable temperature.

Directed by Canadian theatre veteran Robert Lepage, KÀ's drew heavily on martial arts for its inspiration. The story centers around the adventures of a pair of imperial twins. Unlike most Cirque productions, the story of KÀ was more concrete and linear, more narrative and less abstract.

Previews for the 2007 season was presented from November 1–November 4, 2007 and the official inaugural season ran from November 6, 2007–January 6, 2008.

Future productionsRectify

  • 2007/2008: A new television series has been announced by Initial (a sub company of Endemol, the makers of Big Brother (TV series)) in a 3-year contract. The hour-long programs may be filmed in the O2 Centre in London.
  • June–September 2008: Cirque du Soleil will have a daily parade spectacle called The Awakening of the Serpent to be performed for the duration of Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain.
  • July 2008: Cirque du Soleil will open a new residency show at the Las Vegas Sands-owned The Venetian Macau hotel on the Cotai Strip in Macau, China, directed by Québécois film and theatre actor/playwright/director Gilles Maheu.
  • Summer 2008: A new permanent show at The Luxor Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, featuring Criss Angel. According to the press release, Cirque du Soleil is working with Criss to fuse his signature illusions and artistry with acrobatics, dance, puppetry, music and poetry to tell a story.
  • October 1, 2008: Cirque will be premiere a new resident show at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Film director François Girard will be directing that show.
  • October 19, 2008: Cirque will perform a special one-night, one-time event as a closing ceremony performance for the La Francophonie Summit and part of the celebrations marking Quebec City's 400th anniversary at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec, Canada.
  • April 2009: Cirque du Soleil has announced there will be a new touring show (working title: Cirque 2009) to be directed by renowned Brazilian choreographer/dancer Deborah Colker.
  • November 2009: The Elvis Presley Projects. CKX, Inc., the company that owns the rights to Elvis Presley's name, likeness, and music publishing has signed an agreement to have Cirque create Elvis-themed permanent shows and multimedia presentations. This production is slated for Las Vegas' Project CityCenter currently under construction. The Elvis Presley Projects will include additional touring and permanent shows, along with "Elvis Experiences" (interactive multimedia exhibits). One touring Elvis show is planned for Europe/Asia in 2008, with one "Elvis Experience" outside the United States. One new Elvis Presley Project will open each year from 2009-2015.
  • 2010:
    • A new Cirque show will debut at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California with a movie-themed show for the millions of tourist who flock to Hollywood Boulevard each year. The show will run for ten years and will take a six-week break during the city's Academy Award season.
    • Cirque has signed a major partnership with key Persian Gulf real estate developer company Nakheel to create a residency show at the Atlantis, The Palm Resort currently under construction on The Palm, Jumeirah in Dubai with an initial 15-year deal for a new and original show scheduled to perform in late 2010 and directed by Guy Caron (Dralion) and Micheal Curry
    • A second residency show in Macau will be launched at a yet-to-be constructed hotel-casino that according to sources is a reinvention of the variety show, created and directed by René Simard.
    • Cirque will co-create the Canada Pavilion in association with the Government of Canada at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China.
  • Date unknown: Cirque du Soleil has proposed a theme park near Oropesa del Mar/Orpesa, Spain to act as a permanent location. The theme is "Illusion World", and it would be located in Castellon. Negotiations are underway, but nothing has been finalized as of December 2006.

Other projectsRectify

Current Projects

  • A Taste of Cirque du Soleil, a special 30-minute performance on the Constellation and Summit Celebrity Cruises cruise ships. Included on these ships is The Bar of the Edge of the Earth, a dream-like bar/lounge/disco.
  • Cirque du Monde, a social action project designed to reach marginalized youth.
  • Revolution, a lounge concept designed for The Mirage resort in Las Vegas in which the Cirque cast members perform to the music of The Beatles.
  • Cirque du Soleil Collection, a ready-to-wear women's clothing line.

Past Projects

  • 74th Academy Awards (March 24, 2002), Cirque du Soleil created a five minute performance for the category of special effects at the 74th Academy Awards. They spent four months creating the show featuring 11 acts from a variety of Cirque shows. Each of the acts were choreographed and themed to their equivalent movie by re-creating the special effect scene featured in the film on stage while playing clips on a large screen behind the performances.
  • Soleil de Minuit/Midnight Sun (July 11, 2004), a special one-night event in Montreal celebrating the 20th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil and the 25th anniversary of the Montreal.
  • Reflections in Blue (July 16, 2005), a unique one-night water show in Montreal on as part of the opening ceremonies for the 2005.
  • Pre-Game Show (February 4, 2007), at Super Bowl Super Bowl. Produced by David Saltz.


Cirque du Soleil Images creates original and innovative products for television, video and DVD and distributes its productions worldwide. In each of its projects, Cirque du Soleil Images aims to reflect the image and spirit of Cirque du Soleil's shows.

Its creations have been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, including two Gemini Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award for Cirque du Soleil Fire Within (in 2003) and three Primetime Emmy Awards for Cirque du Soleil Presents Dralion (in 2001).

Year Title Notes
1991 Quel Cirque A look into the creation of Nouvelle Experiénce. Out of print.
1992 Saltimbanco's Diary A behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of Saltimbanco. Out of print.
1994 A Baroque Odyssey A 10-year anniversary retrospective.
1994 The Truth of Illusion Documentary about the production Alegria. Out of print.
1996 Full Circle: The Making of Quidam A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Quidam
1998 music of Alegría Film adaptation directed by Franco Dragone. This film was based loosely on the touring show.
2000 Journey of Man A compilation of acts from various Cirque shows including Mystère and Quidam. This movie was shot in wide format and released at IMAX theaters.
2000 Inside La Nouba: From Conception to Perception Highlights of the show and interviews with creators.
2003 Fire Within A 13-episode inside look into the creation and production of Varekai shown on Bravo (television network).
2003 Whatever 'Stie A Parody of Varekai show acted by the technical crew only for the actual artists (actors) DVD.
2004 Midnight Sun Festival International de Jazz de Montrèal on July 11, 2004, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Festival International de Jazz de Montrèal and Cirque du Soleil's 20th birthday.
2004 Solstrom A 13-episode series using various acts from Cirque du Soleil and other productions shown on Bravo (television network). Each episode has a different theme.
2005 KÀ Extreme A documentary which explores the production of KÀ by following the show’s evolution from early rehearsals through to the first public performance.
2006 Lovesick Filmed over two years and set in Las Vegas during the creation of the cabaret-style production, Zumanity.
2007 FLOW A homage to the artists of "O" that provides an in-depth documentary of the Las Vegas aquatic extravaganza.
2007 The Mystery of Mystère A documentary on Mystère, the critically acclaimed theatrical production playing at the permanent location at the Treasure Island Resort.
2007 A Thrilling Ride through KOOZA A short documentary filmed during the creation period of Kooza.

Legal issues Rectify

In November 2003, a U.S. federal discrimination complaint was filed against Cirque du Soleil by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of gymnast Matthew Cusick. The allegation was that in April of the previous year, they fired Cusick because he tested HIV positive. Cusick had not yet performed, but had completed his training and was scheduled to begin working at "Mystere" just a few days after he was terminated. Even though company doctors had already cleared him as healthy enough to perform, Cirque alleged that due to the nature of Cusick's disease coupled with his job's high risk of injury, there was a significant risk of him infecting other performers, crew or audience members.

The complaint was filed at the Los Angeles office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Cusick stated that his HIV status in no way interfered with his ability to perform and he had been cleared by Cirque's own doctors twice before his termination. Cirque du Soleil in turn said that they had several HIV-positive employees, but in the case of Cusick, the risk of him spreading his infection while performing was too high to take the risk.

After learning about the complaint, an additional complaint was filed on Cusick's behalf by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Their complaint stemmed from the issue that the City of San Francisco bans contracts (or in this case land leases) to discriminatory employers.

Although Cirque du Soleil's position remains that this is a safety issue, not a discrimination issue, they settled with Cusick on 22 April, 2004. The terms of the settlement include that the company would initiate a companywide antidiscrimination training program and alter its employment practices pertaining to HIV-positive applicants. In addition, Matthew Cusick received $60,000 in lost wages, $200,000 in front pay, $300,000 in Compensatory damages and Lambda Legal received $40,000 in attorney fees.[1][2]


External linksRectify

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