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Specials: Behind the Curtain

8400 2e - Cirque IHQ

Archives As Cirque du Soleil passed its first decade and found its repertoire growing at an impressive clip, rather than having many of its creative companies spread out amongst various buildings, warehouses and shops across Montréal, Cirque du Soleil decided its artists must have a single home in which to gather, create, rehearse, and dream; therefore, "The Studio", Cirque's new International Headquarters in Montréal, was born.

In keeping with the company's imaginative style and risk-taking ethos, the Cirque crafted a $40-60 Million CDN complex atop one of the biggest landfills in all of North America (the second largest in fact) in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city - the Saint Michel District. Construction began in June 1995 and within a year all of the Cirque's creative employees had moved into the "The Studio".

The complex was designed by Dan Hanganu and Eric Gauthier, both well-known Canadian architects. They supervised the buildings initial inauguration (on February 20, 1997) as well as its two build outs: one completed in June 1998 and the second in December 2000. Although the entire complex covers approximately 75,000 square meters of land (at a cost of $1.10 CDN per square foot) the "Studio" covers only 32,000 square meters of it.

At first glance the exterior of the IHQ is very industrial looking; aluminum siding, large windows and a sprawling parking lot. However, there are little artistic touches to the exterior that hint at the work of the buildings occupants; walls painted blue and yellow (Cirque's company colours), exquisite landscaping including a large vegetable garden, and artwork such as a large metal sculpture depicting a chair balancing act.

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The interior of the building also has a modern, industrial feel; the buildings support beams and pipes are visible, there are big bay doors that lead into the various studios, and aluminum siding is used inside as well. Though industrial the building isn't cold. It is clean, comfortable and very cool!

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Inside the 32,000 square meter studio complex resides...

  • two Training Bays
  • a 361 square meter Dance Studio
  • a 3,761 square meter Costume Shop
  • a 929 square meter Props Workshop
  • a Caffeteria (named "Delirium")
  • Corporate offices, and much, much more!

The Costume Workshop:

Within this large fluorescent-lit workshop a variety of costume pieces can be found on display. Some full and ready to wear while others, partially completed, can be seen strewn amongst the fabric proscessing machines, washing machines and sewing machines in the shop. In the shoe station you might see footwear such as the reptilian slippers of the Varekai creatures and the muscle-vein boots of the Bateau acrobats from "O". In textiles, you might see a half-made Varekai Water Metero costume sitting on a bench surrounded by various material samples as the seamstresses craft the costume.

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Over in the headwear station where all of the hats, masks and wigs are made, you might see renditions of the African masks worn by the Dralion hoop divers, the Double Face mask and Taiko Tribe headpieces from Mystère, several Old Bird masks from Alegría, the large bird beak worn by a character in "O" and the latex pseudo wigs worn by characters in Zumanity on display for reference. In wigs, an intricate hairstyle guide worn by the Washington Trapezist in "O" sits next to the contortionists' wigs from the same show sitting next to the leggins worn by the Satyr character in Zumanity.

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Props Workshop:

Downstairs is where all the props used within a Cirque du Soleil show are made. Here you might find latex molds used for making heads of puppets, light- acrylic chairs used in a dance sequence, or other costume prop pieces. The props workshop is also where all Cirque du Soleil artists go to get plaster molds made of their heads for costume purposes. All of the headpieces are tailor-made on a mold of the artist's head to fit each specific performer exactly. You might see a number of plaster molds as there are shelves full here!

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Training Studios:

Traversing corridors decorated with framed advertising posters from previous engagements of various Cirque du Soleil shows will lead you to Stuidio A/B, the large training studios. Throughout the day several different acrobatic acts can be rehearsed here, such as: Flying trapeze, Aerial Hoops, Chinese Poles, Body Skating and Bateau (aerial act from 'O'). Or you may find artists simply practicing individual skills. Other smaller studios are housed here (C, D and E) and within them you may find an Aerial Hoop, Spanish Webs or Russian Swings set up for routine rehearsals.

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