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  2013

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THE CIRQUE RESTRUCTURES & MOURNS

In an announcement made on January 16th, Cirque du Soleil said it was slashing a number of positions, mostly at its Montreal headquarters, citing tough economic times and out of control expenses. “The Cirque is going through a difficult period but not a difficult financial period,” spokeswoman Renée-Claude Ménard said at the company’s Montreal headquarters. “We are now in the process of reviewing within the company worldwide, all of our expenses, to ensure we decrease them significantly. We’ve identified 400 positions [to be cut], the majority are in the Montreal operations, but we don’t have a definite number yet,” she said. (About 50 positions were abolished before the holidays; 30 in Montreal alone). Cirque employs about 5,000 people world-wide; the cuts represent 9 percent of the company’s total workforce. Despite the restructuring, Laliberté has no intention of selling the company she said.

“The first thing to say is that the Circus is not in crisis,” Menard told the news conference. “Let’s get that straight. We had a record year in terms of tickets sold. We sold more than 14 million tickets this year. We had a record year for total revenue, with more than $1-billion.” Despite that, the Cirque didn’t make money, Menard said. Most of the Cirque’s revenue comes from outside the Country – and Ménard said for every cent the Canadian dollar increases, it costs the company $3 million is lost revenue. The first sign things were changing, Ménard admitted, was back in 2008. The company started to see expenses increase sharply, and as the Canadian dollar inched higher, revenues decreased. “Basically, we’re very lucky that within a very difficult financial and economic situation worldwide – that we’re still pulling the rabbit out of the hat,” she said. It’s a problem, she admits, the company has avoided facing for several years, but it now has no choice. “And now, at 29-years-old, Cirque has to be mature and look at it [as] a mature company.” In addition to the layoffs, Cirque said it would be closing four shows to trim expenses. “We would have been much happier to tell you those shows weren’t closing,” Ms. Ménard said. “But it’s not a revenue issue, it’s an expense issue.”

The Cirque family would also face hardships outside of its financial struggles, when a tragedy took 31-year-old artist Sarah Guyard-Guillot’s life unexpectedly during a live performance of . “Our company is deeply saddened by the loss of one of the talented ‘Ka’ artists," Cirque's announcement read. "The thoughts and prayers of our employees are with the performer’s family, the cast of ‘Ka’ and the entire Cirque family during this difficult time.” Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte added: “I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news. Sassoon was an artist with the original cast of ‘Ka’ since 2006 and has been an integral part of our Cirque du Soleil tight family. We are reminded, with great humility and respect, how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family." Though the death was ruled an accident, a faulty harness clip was determined to be the root cause. Her death – and other artist injuries around the same time – would shake Cirque’s confidence in its safety procedures. KÀ would go dark for several weeks. Although Guyard-Guillot’s death was the first such reported from an accident onstage in the company’s 30-year history, there were a number of bright spots for Cirque to celebrate as well.

Following in the successful footsteps of Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, and after much anticipation throughout the entertainment community, the Michael Jackson estate and Cirque unveiled Michael Jackson ONE, directed by Jamie King, to be presented exclusively at Mandalay Bay. Michael Jackson ONE would join a newly transplanted ZARKANA at Aria as Cirque’s newest shows in Las Vegas. ONE NIGHT FOR ONE DROP would also make its debut. For one extraordinary night, and in an unprecedented manner, seven Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas resident productions became one for ONE DROP, the non-profit organization established by Guy Laliberté for the conservation of water. The evening featured more than 230 artists (and other guest performers) in an once-in-a-lifetime performance on World Water Day, Friday, March 22, 2013, at the "O" Theatre at Bellagio Resort & Casino.

Cirque was active outside of Las Vegas too: SCALADA, a unique and free outdoor event, was developed by Cirque for the Principality of Andorra; its acrobats helped introduce the Infinity Q50 in one of the more creative car reveals during the North American International Auto Show; held Quebec City enthralled one last time for the final chapter of LES CHEMINS INVISIBLES, inks a deal with Mall of Qatar to create about twenty-five 30-40 minute performances staged as vignettes throughout the day throughout the mall; and, debuts DREAMSEEKER, a visually-stunning float for the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Unfortunately, while we did have to say goodbye to Alegria by year's end (December 29th), we do get to congratulate La Nouba on its 7,000th performance (September 12th) and Amaluna on it's 500th show (September 29th). And watch as Cirque comes to Video on Demand through Gravitas Ventures, and KA becomes a comic book, how cool!


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