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Évolution & Visuals

Milestone Date
Name Registered 01/30/2004
Press Conference 09/15/2004
Lion's Den #1 11/06/2004
Lion's Den #2 11/12/2004
Previews Begin 11/26/2004
Gala Premiere 02/03/2005
2,000th Show 02/18/2009
3,000th Show 03/23/2011
4,000th Show 04/20/2013
5,000th Show 06/xx/2015
6,000th Show 08/23/2017
COVID Hiatus 03/14/2020
Cirque planted what it called a “Flower in the Desert” with Mystère in 1993, and then watched its newly-formed garden bloom when it launched “O” in 1998 to enormous success. The two shows would come to dominate The Strip, setting Cirque du Soleil as the King of Entertainment in Las Vegas. But Cirque wasn’t done yet. Two years after Mirage Resorts and MGM Grand merged (to form MGM-Mirage), plans to expand Cirque’s presence on The Strip were announced with not just one, but two new shows! The first, Zumanity, premiered in 2003 at New York-New York Casino-Hotel, the second – KÀ - for the MGM Grand would replace “EFX Alive!” starring Rick Springfield, would open in 2004 – Cirque du Soleil’s 20th Anniversary year.

Robert Lepage was set as director with Guy Caron (Le Magie Continue, Dralion) serving as Director of Creation. The show was set to "shake the spectator's perception of space, conception of the law of gravity, and comprehension of the world in three dimensions." These projects built upon the relationship between Cirque du Soleil and MGM-Mirage, which started back in 1992 with a special presentation of "Nouvelle Experience" on the grounds of the Mirage hotel-casino. "MGM Mirage has an excellent grasp of the creative strengths and energy that drive Cirque du Soleil," said Guy Laliberté, CEO and Founder in the press release for the dual projects. "We have always held fast to our dream of reinventing other forms of entertainment." And it certainly looked as if Cirque du Soleil would continue to "Re-invent the Circus" in the desert of Las Vegas, and worldwide, as their expanded partnership with MGM Mirage globalized their efforts even more. The race was on...

[ ÉvolutionVisuals ]

Defying the Laws of Gravity

    By the end of 2002 speculation ran wild regarding just what Cirque had up its sleeve. Casting calls became rare windows into just what the company had in mind, leaking out small details about the performances/acts under consideration for each. The MGM Grand show, slated to debut sometime in 2004, was looking for artists skilled in Archery and the Martial Arts -- Wu Shu, Kung Fu, and Akido with the ability to use a Sabre, Nunchakus or Katana. From the moment the casting calls went out we knew this show would be completely different from Mystère, “O”, or the NewYork-NewYork show.

      The show (then going by the working title of “Duality”) was described as a "fantastic epic [that] will shatter space perception and defy the laws of gravity, with a story based on duality, personified by twins who will illustrate the battle that life forces us to wage against ourselves." This description of the show is nothing new however, and has been discussed in fandom before. Certain details regarding what we may see in the show have remained a mystery only to crop up on the casting site. Such tidbits include that the show would feature "acrobatic dance, martial arts, puppets, music, singing and Cirque du Soleil's acrobatic savoir-faire". Wait, puppets?

      Yes, Cirque is placing its acrobatic "savoir-faire" (know-how) in the hands of Robert Lepage, who is directing the show, and Guy Caron (Dralion), the Director of Creation. What is interesting, however, is that information about some of the characters we'll see in the show has come to light -- the Evil Counsellor and the Blind Man: The Evil Counselor is the principal character in this new show. He's described as a "poisonous character and [a] power-hungry manipulator (like Shakespeare's Iago or Richard III)." The Blind Man is also a principal character, old, wise, and will personify an African wizard.

    * * *

    It was in London in the summer of 2000 that Cirque du Soleil founder and CEO Guy Laliberté bumped into Lepage, the experimental Québécois film and stage writer and director. The pair had been flirting with collaboration for years. "Cirque du Soleil and I had kind of this on and off relationship forever," Lepage says. "We worked with the same people. They keep stealing my technicians and emptying Quebec of anybody who has talent," he says with a laugh. When Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte offered him "Ka," Lepage balked, took a week to think about it, then called back and declined. "I'm not sure I can do this. It's such a huge thing. My process is too organic for you guys," he told them.

    But Laliberte cited his two tours, saying "it's obvious that you can control a chaotic environment, that you can make sense of it. (The concerts were) more than just razzamatazz. That's where we want to go." He asked Lepage to re-create the same dreamlike feeling with a thread of a story line. "I'd say even though it's a huge megashow, it is a very shy attempt at that. It's a first step (for Cirque du Soleil) into trying to tell a story and have some kind of logical order," Lepage says. "It is a complete change of mentality for Cirque du Soleil. It looks like a trivial thing, but it's actually radically different for them."

    Set more or less in 17th-century Japan, the show tells the epic, broad-brush tale of Imperial twins, a boy and a girl (played by two sisters from San Francisco). Separated during a storm at sea -- an 1,800-pound boat subjected to vertiginous rocking by the actors -- the twins must endure trial and tribulation before finding reunion. It's a story line any vacationing farm family from Indiana will understand.

    The project's original working title was Feu (Fire), which encompassed for Lepage the paradox of creation and destruction. "It gives us light and heat but also pain and death," he said in an interview yesterday. " Ka, in fact, is also one of the Japanese words for fire." The implicit duality was reflected in the ancient Egyptian notion of Ka, the spiritual essence that was said to accompany physical beings through the journey of life.

    To be sure, the decision to impose plot gave Laliberté some pause. As Lepage explains it, "I told Guy that if he wanted narrative, he had to have conflict. And of course what Cirque is about is peace and harmony and Zen balance. So when we showed him some martial-arts demonstration tapes early on, he went, 'Whoah. That's not Cirque. I don't think we can do this.'" Later, he changed his mind, but encouraged Lepage and his creative team -- including British stage and rock-show designer Mark Fisher and American puppeteer Michael Curry -- not to emphasize the conflict. For Lepage, that mild restraint was more than offset by the virtually unlimited budget and the generous time -- almost three years in the end --needed to conceive, design, cast, train and rehearse.

    But there was also some discord.

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