Written by Shreya Panda, a grade 11 student
Cirque du Soleil’s first ever production was titled “We Reinvent Circus”. Significantly said, Cirque soon took the world by storm with its unconventional strategies challenging the entire circus industry.
Cirque du Soleil is a Canada-based entertainment company and the largest contemporary circus producer in the world. It all started in the late 1970s with cofounders Gilles Ste-Croix and Guy Laliberté busy doing street shows in Quebec with other young performers. These street performances were filled with fancifully fantastic characters: from stilt walkers and unicyclists to musicians and fire-breathers.
The attention they gained was shockingly massive and the troupe’s reputation led them to organize the La Fête foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul Festival of Canada. This inspired a new dream among the young hope-filled artists; ‘to create a Quebec circus and take the troupe traveling around the world.’
However, even after their immense popularity spreading, the profits they earned were seemingly low. The circus struggled especially in the ’80s but soon hit its strife and was ultimately a financial success. The company grew rapidly: touring North America in 1984 and mounting productions in Europe and Asia by the early 1990s. With the sky as their limit, soon Cirque du Soleil expanded to major production offices like Walt Disney Show in Florida and other prominent shows in Las Vegas.
The compelling thing about the company is that its performances were unique and unconventional, which focused on human physical skill instead of obscurity and narrative rather than bewilderment. There were no animal acts or star performers, and no talking. Instead, the shows consisted of an imaginative fusion of varied acrobatic and artistic discipline from around the world which were synchronized with such precision that they never failed to bedazzle the audience.
It is amusing how, in less than twenty years since its creation, Cirque du Soleil achieved a level of revenues that took its competitors Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey—the once global champions of the circus industry—more than one hundred years to attain.
In a time when children grabbed video games to play rather than going out and watching a circus, its remarkable that Cirque du Soleil took over the world with its strategies. For the first time, a circus production company targeted adults as well instead of just children as their audience.
Recently, however, the company was forced to cut off 3500 jobs to avoid bankruptcy due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Like many other entertainment industries today, Cirque plans to restructure by shedding its staff.
In the midst of a global lockdown, we all hope to see industries like Cirque sustain themselves and continue to be the mammoth entertainment company it has worked to become today.