Backstage at Cirque du Soleil: The secrets of their success

The show is amazing, the colour, the music, the costumes, the spectacle, the entire performance, of Cirque du Soleil’s current show in Muscat, ‘Bazaar,’ is a festival, a celebration of family entertainment at its best!
Yet, it arose from humble beginnings in a tiny village, Baie-Saint Paul, in Quebec, Canada, where Gilles Ste-Croix founded a troupe of stilt-walkers, jugglers, fire-eaters, acrobats and dancers that under Guy Laliberte began touring the show with their unique show, which now had a name that symbolised their innovative approach to the circus. After all, whoever heard of a circus without animals? Today, ‘Cirque’ is synonymous with family entertainment around the world, and is probably now to circus, what Facebook is to social media, iconic and inseparable.
Their headquarters sits not far from its birthplace, a sprawling purpose-built campus that reflects the environmental responsibility and organisational philosophies. Dance studios, acrobatic studios and gymnasiums on site enable circus artists and performers to be assessed, trained, and to prepare for their shows. A creative team works on imaginative new acts, with trainers, coaches, riggers and artistic directors, and even technological and engineering teams are constantly pushing the boundaries of their unique brand of family entertainment.
Publicist Nicolas Chabot told the Observer, “At the moment there are 19 different performance groups, 1300 artists from 55 countries around the globe presenting Cirque du Soleil shows. And just this show, ‘Bazaar’ consists of 31 container loads of equipment, 60 crew, and 45 artists drawn from sports, dance, musical, gymnastics, even swimming, and street theatre backgrounds. This diversity offers us a unique perspective on entertainment and combine that with an institutional philosophy of turning dreams into reality, and you go right to the heart of our creative process.”
He continued explaining that their creative process is based around a creative team of writers, choreographers, lighting, set and costume designers, that has the freedom to push boundaries in a unique creative environment. For example, Brazilian fashion designer Luana Ouverney heads the costume and wardrobe team on ‘Bazaar,’ and she has a team of three travelling with her, and generally takes on 6 additional local staff to work with costumes at each new venue.
“Each artist,” she explained, “has their own uniquely crafted costume, designed by the creative team, using innovative materials that must be strong, flexible, and dry quickly. The footwear is all performance appropriate, but is all colour and design oriented down to the last button or lace, and we even have make-up that is specifically designed for high-activity performance! Everything is developed on campus, fitted, packaged, and part of the show package.” In fact, enough fabric to go around a football field 20 times is dyed and treated each year using space age and high-tech processes to keep trendy, fashionable, futuristic and functional.
Music too is a big part of the Cirque du Soleil success story with in-house composers applying new arrangements to classics and creating original music to fit the themes and pace of each show. The sets and stages are another element that is always being challenged by the set design and staging team, again, using rigorously tested, high-tech, high-performance materials to create lightweight, strong, attractive sets and stages.
At Cirque du Soleil, and everything is planned, scripted, reflected upon, analysed and critiqued as part of an inclusive quality process. As Chabot put it, “So you can see, nothing happens by accident at Cirque.” Leaving no stone unturned is probably why they deliver such fantastic experiences, and it’s not too late to see the Alchemy Project promoted extravaganza, simply book through www.tixbox.com for an unforgettable entertainment experience.

PHOTOS BY LENA PETERSEN