Three decades ago, Cirque du Soleil was the dream of a small community of travelling performers in Quebec, Canada who would do anything to share their love of the circus. The family has grown since then and now includes thousands of dreamers—creators, artists, technicians and workers who toil in the shadows.
The dream has become a symbol of Quebec pride, with the international entertainment company having brought 35 large-scale shows to life, 20 of which are still in operation. The company has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries.
Since 1999, Cirque du Soleil has brought seven of their productions to Australia. Adding a new chapter to Australia’s love affair with Cirque in this 30th anniversary year, the Big Top production TOTEM arrives in Sydney on 28 October and will then tour nationally including seasons in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
It all started in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Quebec City, in Canada. There, in the early eighties, a band of colourful characters roamed the streets, striding on stilts, juggling, dancing, breathing fire, and playing music. They were Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stiltwalkers), a street theatre group founded by Gilles Ste-Croix.
The townsfolk were impressed and intrigued by the young performers, which included Guy Laliberté who became the founder of Cirque du Soleil. The troupe went on to found Le Club des talons hauts (the High Heels Club), which began to attract attention, and Guy Laliberté, Gilles Ste-Croix and their cronies began to cherish a crazy dream: to create a Quebec circus and take the troupe travelling around the world.
In 1984, Quebec City was celebrating the 450th anniversary of Canada’s discovery by Jacques Cartier, and they needed a show that would carry the festivities out across the province. Guy Laliberté presented a proposal for a show called Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun), and succeeded in convincing the organizers. And Cirque du Soleil hasn’t stopped since!
For more information about TOTEM and the performance schedule, visit: www.cirquedusoleil.com/totem for details.
Image: Guy Laliberte, 1983, Cirque du Soleil Inc.