Cirque du Soleil has a rich history that stretches back more than 25 years. Theirs is a story
about a group of young people who wanted nothing more than the freedom to dream a dream; the
tale of individuals who came forward at special moments in time to cultivate and move that
dream forward, and to eventually share it with the world. Individuals like Guy Laliberté,
Gilles Ste-Croix, Guy Caron, Normand Latourelle and Daniel Gauthier, amongst many, many others.
Historia! Celebrates Cirque du Soleil's pioneering
spirit by reflecting on their long journey throughout the years...
THE POWER OF IMAGINATION
Up until the late 20th century “circus” meant something very
different than what it means today. The word would conjure images of
travelling families with bizarre skills, flamboyant ringmasters with
whips, waltz music from marching bands and, sadly, occasional examples
of animal cruelty. In the late 1970s a new type of performance started
to emerge around the world, one that focused on skill instead of
obscurity, and on story instead of bewilderment. Developed simultaneously
in Australia, France, Canada, the United States and Britain, nouveau
cirque manifested itself as an international movement, but it wasn’t
until the 1980s, when Cirque du Soleil surfaced, that contemporary
circus was truly brought to the world’s attention…
Cirque du Soleil's story is one about a group of young people who
wanted nothing more than the freedom to dream a dream. It's a tale of
individuals like Guy Laliberté, Gilles Ste-Croix, Guy Caron, Normand
Latourelle and Daniel Gauthier, amongst many, many others, who came
forward at special moments in a time of creative ferment and great energy
in Quebec, to cultivate and move that dream forward, and to eventually
share their inspiration with the world. It all started in Baie-Saint-Paul,
a small Canadian town near Québec City, in 1980. In this haven of
creativity, whose rural charm attracted artists, artisans and tourists
alike, a group of young street performers mixed in with the crowd.
Loud, eccentric, brash and impossible to avoid, they walked on stilts,
juggled, breathed fire and played music. They were Les Échassiers de
Baie-Saint-Paul (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stilt walkers); a street theatre
group founded by Gilles Ste-Croix. But long before Les Échassiers walked
the bay, the Charlevoix region was an ideal location for generations of
young urbanites to embark to on a quest to find their roots, to seek a
balance between Man and Nature, to live in love and harmony.
During the early 20th century, Baie-Saint-Paul was home to a group of
Canadian landscape painters known as the Groupe des Sept (Group of Seven)
- Franklin Carmichael (1890–1945), Lawren Harris (1885–1970), A. Y.
Jackson (1882–1972), Frank Johnston (1888–1949), Arthur Lismer (1885–1969),
J. E. H. MacDonald (1873–1932), and Frederick Varley (1881–1969). In the
1940s and 1950s, a priest – Father Jean-Paul-Médéric Tremblay (1918-1999)
- was given charge of a group of young people called Équipiers de Saint-Michel.
The philosophy of this particular group rested on a nomadic lifestyle
concept and a mentality of open-mindedness (which was quite rare at that
time). These activities would lay the foundations of the Balcon Vert, a
Youth Hostel located at the top of Cap aux Corbeaux in Baie-Saint-Paul.
Many had already associated the popular site with a place to experience
a freedom of mind, and so, from the 1970s on, it became a meeting place for
many creative young people – a nerve center of the area’s growing cultural
scene. In 1974, a non-profit organization was created in order to ensure Le
Balcon Vert would be properly managed. Enter Gilles Ste-Croix.
In the spring of 1979, Gilles Ste-Croix was hired as the manager of
Le Balcon Vert and was working to create a summer activity program that
year. One particular project interested him; for, not long before, he had
gone to see a show produced by Peter Schumann at the Bread and Puppet
Theatre in Vermont. The shows made considerable use of giant puppets and
the effect was so striking, he was inspired to put a similar group of
artists together. The only difference would be that his show would feature
legendary characters from Quebec's history and legends.