A Visit to Cirque du Soleil HQ

Mimi ON Oct 01, 2012 AT 3:38 pm


The site at TOHU Cirque du Soleil

The site at TOHU Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil. A name that is known across the globe, and in its wake has left wonder and delight for anyone who has been to see their shows. Having traveled to more than 300 cities in over forty countries across six continents, the circus troupe that was once a dream of young performer Guy Laliberté has been made a fantastic reality. It is hard to believe that such a superpower of the circus world began only in 1984, in the small Canadian town of Baie-Saint-Paul.

Although the cirque began with only 20 street performers and has now grown to more that 1,300 artist and 5,000 employees, the mission and commitment to excellence is still the same. Cirque du Soleil strives to “invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world”. They have certainly done that, presenting simultaneously 22 different shows around the world this year alone.

However, the cirque is as much a fantasy for the artists who join as the audiences who watch the performances. As a world-class troupe, it is a dream of aspiring circus performers to call themselves a part of the Cirque du Soleil. The beginning of this dream starts at the cirque’s International Headquarters in Montreal, where all newly hired performers are trained at the Studio.

The gym for the performers at Cirque du Soleil

The gym for the performers at Cirque du Soleil

At the Studio new performing artists are trained for a few weeks to a few months time before joining a show. During this time artists undergo artistic and acrobatic training in the acrobatic training, dance and fitness training rooms on site. To ensure the effectiveness and safety of the performers, the Studio employs nearly one hundred trainers as well as physiotherapists and fitness specialists to keep artists in good health.

To give an idea of the scale of this training program, in 2012 nearly 450 performers will receive training at the Studio. Some fifty nationalities are respresented among the artists of Cirque du Soleil, and artists come from a variety of performing backgrounds, including gymnastics, acrosport, swimming, diving, dance, singing, music and of course, circus arts.

Another area of the Cirque du Soleil International Headquarters that obviously sparked our interest are the production workshops, particularly the Costume workshop. All of the costumes and props needed for the various world-wide shows are created at headquarters in Montreal. These workshops are surely a fashionista’s dream, with master shoemakers, milliners, textile experts, sewers, and lace makers and designers, all on staff and on call to make any costume piece imaginable. The designers Cirque du Soleil have employed are renowned in Canada and abroad, and include such names as Dominique Lemieux, Thierry Mugler, and Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt.

A student at the Studio, Montreal warming up

A student at the Studio, Montreal warming up

Taking a tour of the Costume workshop is fascinating, the unique costumes add the element of fantasy that is necessary for the success of the Cirque du Soleil experience. The attention to detail is unbelievable, we saw hats, hair, shoes and unitards, all beautifully made for each and every artist.  This year alone, the Costume workshop will produce more than 20,000 pieces and use more than 150 kilometers of fabric, of which 80% are treated and dyed in-house by the on staff artisans. If this in itself is not enough to impress, it is estimated that nearly 3,000 pairs of shoes are produced by the workshop yearly, and 4,500 costumes are found on site at each show location every night!

Although we’d love to go on about the glorious cirque costumes, it is worth noting that Cirque du Soleil also partners in the non-profit organization TOHU. The organization’s mission is to make Montreal an international circus arts capital but also embraces environmental components by participating in the revitalization of the Saint-Michel Enviromental Complex, North America’s second largest urban landfill site.

The Cirque du Soleil has also made a large effort towards improving the community of Montreal by founding l’École Buissonnière, an arts school in the Saint-Michel community. Through arts and culture, the school aims to contribute to the children’s personal and social development. Its pedagogical approach brings together art teachers and school teachers, working in collaboration to facilitate dance, circus arts and plastic arts workshops, create shows and exhibits, and organize cultural outings.

Cirque du Soleil is certainly a troupe like no other, and can only be seen as an innovative look at the future of what circus is to become…

Travel Facts: 

Travel to Montreal in July to see all the brilliant shows who take part in their annual   Complement Cirque Festival

My other favourite festival in Montreal is Just for Laughs, also in July.

For more information on Montreal and special offers available in the city visit www.tourisme-montreal.org

Air Canada flies regularly to Montreal from London Heathrow – check out www.aircanada.com for prices

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