8400 2e - Cirque IHQ
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.
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!
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 Agora is the heart of the Studio. Designed for formal and informal
gathering of employees and guests, this meeting place features a staircase
reminiscent of the bleachers under the Big Top. Several press conferences
have been held here since the Studio opened, as well as a number of concerts.
Exhibited in the decor of the Agora are a number of props used for Cirque du
Soleil shows, including the studio's infamous clocks.
The Costume Workshop:
All Cirque du Soleil costumes are custom-made and the majority are produced at
the Costume workshop at the International Headquarters (IHQ). The workshop, the
only one of its kind in North America, employs specialists in fields as varied as
shoemaking, textile design, lace-making, wig-making, patternmaking, costumemaking
and millinery. In total, the Costume workshop has almost 400 full-time
employees. To create its costumes, Cirque du Soleil employs the talents of
designers renowned both in Canada and abroad.
Research and development plays a big role in costume design. Cirque is constantly
on the lookout for new materials or products that are likely to stimulate the
imagination of the costume designers. Working with the Workshop's teams of
specialists (patternmakers, textile designers, dyers, costume makers, etc.), they
produce the designs they have imagined for their show. There are many aspects to
research and development:
- The various existing technologies are of interest to the specialists, who
study the possibility of applying them to costume designing. Certain materials,
called starting materials, are used as is, while others are transformed to give
texture to a costume, create a special effect or even an illusion. Materials
used for dentistry, plumbing, aviation or even water sports may be found in
the components of one costume or another.
- A technological watch is performed on certain types of products (batteries,
adhesives, miniature lights, etc.) in order to see how these various elements
can be incorporated into a costume and what effect they would have on
the weight or maintenance of the costume, for example.
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.
Each year, Costume workshop artisans use a hundred kilometres of fabric from
around the world. 80% of all fabrics are treated and dyed in-house by the
artisans of the textile design team. To dye fabric, various techniques are used,
such as bath-dyeing, silk-screening (a stencil-based printing process done
through a silk screen made), and direct application (hand-painted fabric).
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. Hats can be seen in every Cirque du Soleil
show and are a key part of the costumes. Like the costumes, they are
custom-designed and made in the workshop. To do this, the milliners mould and
build the hats on plaster models of the artists’ heads. When artists
arrive at Cirque du Soleil, they must have a mould made of their head.
A wig-making team is also part of the Costume workshop. These artisans master
"ventilation," one of the longest and most arduous wig-making techniques, which
involves building the wig one hair at the time onto a base using a hook.
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.
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!
The Studio in Cirque du Soleil’s International Headquarters is a full-fledged
creation, innovation and training laboratory. Since 1997, all Cirque du Soleil shows
have been created at the Studio, which provides a great deal of flexibility to the
creative teams working on various Cirque projects.
Upon being hired by Cirque du Soleil, performers come to the Studio at the
International Headquarters in Montreal for a few weeks or months of preliminary
training before joining a show. Physiotherapists and fitness specialists work on
site in the Studio to keep performers in good health, help maximize their
physical potential, and ensure an optimal environment for their development.
all artists undergo artistic and acrobatic training
while at the Creation Studio. To supervise performer training programs, the
Studio employs close to one hundred trainers from around the world. These
trainers specialize in such fields as dance, theatre, singing, and acrobatics.
The Studio houses various acrobatic and artistic training rooms to address the
various training needs of the artists.
- Three acrobatic training studios:
- Studio A/B: a 1,425 sq-meter acrobatic training studio that is 23 meter
high. The room is equipped with a technical “trampoline” 18 m above the
ground from which acrobatic and technical equipment can be safely
hung. The trampoline is made of 38 km of woven metal cabling;
- Studio C: a 720 sq-meter acrobatic training studio that’s also 23 m high,
adjacent to the first room;
- Studio E: A 785 sq-meter acrobatic training studio containing a
2.4-metre-deep pit filled with 25,000 Styrofoam cubes (instead of a
traditional net), a trampoline and a fast track.
- Two artistic training studios:
- Studio D: a 361 sq-meter dance studio divided into four small
- Studio Theatre: a 315 sq-meter Studio Theatre. In this multi-purpose
room, specific atmospheres can be created thanks to a flexible lighting
system. Among other things, acting workshops are held there.