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Cirque du Soleil [ You are here: Grand Chapiteau | Historia | 1997 ]




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    Acclaimed by an audience of over 15 million worldwide, with numerous prizes and distinctions to its credit, Cirque du Soleil is a unique organization which has reinvented and revolutionized the circus arts. Since its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has been pleasing the public with a novel show concept that is as original as it is non-traditional: an astonishing, theatrical blend of circus arts and street performance, wrapped up in spectacular costumes and fairyland sets and staged to spellbinding music and magical lighting. There are no animals in a Cirque du Soleil production-only sheer human energy is put to work!

At the present, no less than three productions are running on different continents: Fresh from its Asian tour, Alegría takes on Europe next. (Alegría would also be invited to perform at this year's Royal Variety Performance, performing a rendition of the show's "Milonga" opening, Elena Lev would dazzle with her hoops performance, Handbalancing by Samuel Tetreault, Russian Bars, and the Alegria song finale), Quidam continued to capture the hearts of North American spectators, and Mystère has permanent billing at the Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas. And as of 1998, the number of productions will double. In the fall of 1998, Cirque du Soleil will begin presenting a permanent aquatic show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, and beginning in December of the same year, a new theatre built on the Walt Disney World site near Orlando, Florida will house a brand new Cirque du Soleil production. On the other side of the Atlantic: after five years of touring, the curtain fell on Saltimbanco at London's Royal Albert Hall, marking the end of a two-year European tour (February 1, 1997).

Cirque du Soleil's presence can be felt on several continents. Not only does the organization have a solid footing in its native Quebec, it also has a second head office in Amsterdam, and a third will be opened in Singapore in January 1998. In addition, two business offices are located in Las Vegas and Tokyo. Every concept and scenic element in a Cirque du Soleil show comes from its one and only creation and production centre, the main Cirque du Soleil head office in Montreal. The Studio, which opened in February 1997, was designed to meet the special requirements of Cirque artisans. Worthy of note are its two huge training rooms as well as set and costume shops bustling with creators, designers, artists, and craftspeople. The cost to complete this real estate project totalled nearly $40 million. Over 500 employees work in the building, on floor space exceeding 14,000 square metres.

Since its creation thirteen years ago, Cirque du Soleil's growth has been phenomenal. What began as a small group of travelling performers carting their modest circus paraphernalia from town to town is now an organization with nearly 1,700 employees worldwide, and this number is expected to reach 2,000 at the turn of the century. Founding President Guy Laliberté runs the organization with a master's hand, along with his "partner in crime" from the early days, fellow President Daniel Gauthier. Backed by a solid management team, the top managers juggle an impressive sales figure of $150 million; this figure is expected to double in 1998, reaching $300 million. Like the organization itself, Cirque du Soleil's management model is unique and innovative.

While Cirque du Soleil draws most of its revenues (85%) from the box office, its commercial activities are diversifying and playing an increasingly important role. Cirque du Soleil Images manages production of audiovisual works and oversees the marketing of various show soundtracks with BMG Music. Licensing agreements and corporate alliances are formed on a regular basis. Plans for retail outlets are becoming a reality, with the first boutique to open at Walt Disney World in Florida. The publishing world has also been approached. Furthermore, a first feature film, inspired by Cirque du Soleil's show Alegría, will hit theatres in the spring of 1998.

In keeping with its sense of social responsibility, Cirque du Soleil allocates 1% of its potential box-office revenues to philanthropic activities that assist young people in vulnerable socio-economic circumstances. In particular, Cirque top managers have set up the "Cirque du Monde" program, which uses circus arts as an alternative way of working with youth in difficulty.

And last, but not least, Cirque du Soleil joins forced with Pomp Duck and Circumstance, an original dinner-theatre show:

    A few years ago in Germany, a unique upscale dinner theatre concept was born. The cabaret-type production proved to be a great success and has made quite a name for itself. Recently, Cirque du Soleil joined with Pomp Duck & Circumstance to revitalize the formula and stage a brand new show. Gilles Ste-Croix was chosen as director for the production, which will premiere on June 12, 1997. Under a beautiful wooden tent-like structure, guests will watch an unforgettable performance by the approximately 45 waiters while dining on an epicurean feast fit for a king.

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. It has also developed an illustrated children’s book project, inspired by its big top productions:

    Since its creation in 1984, the hallmark of Cirque du Soleil has been its innovative and transdisciplinary nature. Though primarily focused on avant-garde live performances, its activities have quickly grown to include film production, music CDs, merchandising / licensing and many other projects. Cirque du Soleil is currently in the process of identifying a publishing partner for a series of children's books inspired by its productions. The first book will be an illustrated children’s book inspired by its latest show, Quidam. Cirque’s commitment to developing children's books is in keeping with this effort to create shows and projects that appeal to the child in all of us. In Cirque du Soleil’s creative process, ideas always take shape with a child’s perspective in mind. Moreover, Cirque du Soleil's worldwide audiences are constantly growing and include more and more families and children. With major permanent projects like those in Las Vegas and Walt Disney World opening in 1998, Cirque du Soleil will reach a worldwide audience of book readers. Guy Laliberté comments: "We want to enter the publishing world with the same high standards of artistry and innovation that have been, since the beginning, the trademark of Cirque du Soleil".

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