Cirque du Soleil is considered to be one of the best circuses in the world. Its productions are magnificent, infused with an underlying, beautiful, bizarre quality. Each performance goes beyond the showing of the talent and skill of the artists (although that, too, is astounding), to create a certain atmosphere that is delightfully surrealistic, and truly unforgettable.
Formed in June of 1984, Cirque du Soleil was originally a group of young street performers from Baie-Saint-Paul, Canada. The group was not very big, consisting of 73 artists with various traditional and innovative acts. Their first official show was presented in Gaspe, Quebec, and was such a success that the group decided to tour ten other cities across the province. In the next several years, the Cirque grew in both size, and recognition, performing in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco. In 1990, Cirque du Soleil made it's international debut in Paris and London, and since then, has performed in over 130 cities worldwide. Cirque du Soleil's International Headquarters are now located in Montreal, and are the main center of creation and production of the entire organization. Besides this location, the Cirque has one permanent theater in Walt Disney World, and two in Las Vegas (Bellagio, and Treasure Island). Cirque du Soleil has recently added two more productions to its repertoire:
Varekai (premiered in April, 2002)
Alegria (a film that uses several acts and the music from the show.)
As of today, the Cirque employs over 500 artists, of various nationalities and backgrounds. Several of the original members of the group that founded it in 1984 are still there. Guy Laliberté, previously a musician and a firebreather is now the Founding President of the organization. Gilles Ste-Croix, whose specialty was stilt walking, is now the Director of Creation. It is truly amazing that these people, who began as a small group of street performers, have been able to grow, and build something so successful and inspiring.
Many organizations around the world have honored Cirque du Soleil for its extraordinary financial and artistic achievement. Over the past several years, the Cirque has been presented with the prestigious Emmy, Ace, Félix, and Gémeaux awards, as well as a Rose d'Or de Montreux. In addition to simply staging and developing productions, the Cirque has also become involved in social and cultural action, launching several projects such as the Arts du Monde and Cirque du Monde (programs that provide artistic training for youth at risk).
I have seen almost all of the productions of Cirque du Soleil, and I have enjoyed each one. There is something fascinating about the troupe, something that seems to draw you in when you are watching them. Part of it is the music and the costumes; they are so strange, original, and beautiful, they blur the borders between art, circus, and theater. But the other part is difficult to describe. The elements that are incorporated into the performances are something that you would never expect to encounter in a circus. There is the usual cheer, happiness, and joy, but there is also a sense of the macabre, that, at times, becomes rather disturbing. The fact that the Cirque is willing to take the risk of communicating such a wide range of emotions to the audience is what makes it so unique. For me, the Cirque goes beyond the circus craft, beyond the acrobats, the weightlifters, and the firebreathers. I find it to be the ultimate art form, a fusion of musical, visual, and performing genius.
I actually had an opportunity to see the Dralion production live. It was absolutely astounding....
I saw Varekai. I was blown away. It was even better than Dralion, which is pretty damn near impossible.