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Creators

  • Guy Laliberté

    Founder and Creative Guide

    Guy Laliberté was born in Québec City in 1959. An accordionist, stilt-walker and fire-eater, he founded Quebec's first internationally-renowned circus with the support of a small group of accomplices. A bold visionary, Guy Laliberté recognized and cultivated the talents of the street performers from the Fête foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul and created Cirque du Soleil in 1984.

    Guy Laliberté was the first to orchestrate the marriage of cultures and artistic and acrobatic disciplines that is the hallmark of Cirque du Soleil. Since 1984, he has guided the creative team through the creation of every show and contributed to elevating the circus arts to the level of the great artistic disciplines.

    Cirque du Soleil has become an international organization, as much in terms of its makeup as in the scope of its activities and influence. Guy Laliberté now heads an organization with activities on five continents.

    In October 2007, Guy Laliberté entered into a second lifetime commitment by creating the ONE DROP Foundation to fight poverty around the world by providing sustainable access to safe water.  This new dream stems from the knowledge that the right to water is key to the survival of individuals and communities all over the world and from the values which have been at the heart of Cirque du Soleil since its inception:  the belief that life gives back what you have given and even the smallest gesture will make a difference.

    In September 2009, Guy Laliberté became the first Canadian private space explorer.  His mission was dedicated to raising awareness on water issues facing humankind on planet earth. Under the theme Moving Stars and Earth for Water, this first Poetic Social Mission in space aimed at touching people through an artistic approach: a special 120-minute webcast program featuring various artistic performances unfolding in 14 cities on five continents, including the International Space Station.

    Main Awards and Distinctions
    In 2012, Guy Laliberté was inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame. In 2011, he became one of the inductees of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. Guy Laliberté was awarded his very own star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010. In the same year, the Quebec government honoured Guy by promoting him from Chevalier (a distinction granted six years earlier) to Officier as a member of the Ordre de la Pléiade. Université Laval (Québec) awarded an honorary doctorate to Guy Laliberté in 2008. The year before, Guy Laliberté took the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for all three levels: Quebec, Canada and international. In 2004, he received the Order of Canada, the highest distinction in the country, from the Governor General of Canada.  The same year, he was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2003, he was honoured by the Condé Nast group as part of the Never Follow Program, a tribute to creators and innovators. In 2001, he was named a Great Montrealer by the Académie des Grands Montréalais. In 1997, Guy Laliberté received the Ordre National du Québec, the highest distinction awarded by the Government of Quebec.

    Other awards and distinctions

    2009
    Lifetime Achievement Award granted by the Canadian Marketing Association

    2002
    Induction to Canada’s Walk of Fame

    1998
    Visionary Award granted by the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Arts and Design in New York)

    1996
    Vision nouvelle award received at the 43rd Gala du Commerce (Quebec)

    1988
    Personality of the Year, Gala Excellence La Presse (Quebec)

    1988
    Entrepreneur of the Year, Les Affaires magazine (Quebec)

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  • Dominic Champagne

    Writer and Director

    A multitalented and prolific playwright, director and Artistic Director of his own theatre company, Dominic Champagne has been a forceful presence on the Quebec cultural scene since graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada in 1987.

    In 1992, Champagne created waves among the public and his peers with his show Cabaret Neiges Noires, written in collaboration with his fellow artists at Théâtre il va sans dire. Inspired by Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, the play was highly innovative in both its message and its medium. The script was at once cynical, poetic, dark and funny, while the festive and unrestrained staging brought together acting, song and music. Champagne's gamble paid off: he succeeded in taking a critical look at the era and in bringing new audiences into the theatre. The show has been performed more than 100 times since it was first created.

    Champagne adapted and directed Don Quichotte (Cervantes' Don Quixote) for a 1998 stage production that attracted record crowds to Montreal's Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, and in 2000 he set new attendance records with his staging of L'Odyssée (The Odyssey, by Homer). His other creations for the theatre include La Caverne, L'Asile, Lolita, La Cité Interdite and La Répétition.

    He has also worked in television as a writer for the series Les Grands Procès, and was involved in the creation and direction of many variety shows including Le Plaisir Croît Avec l'Usage, the opening ceremonies of the Jeux de la Francophonie, Tous Unis Contre le SIDA, Les Spectacles de la Fête Nationale and La Soirée des Masques.

    His more than 100 accomplishments for the stage, television and circus have earned him a host of awards and honors, including the Prix de la Critique for the text of La Répétition, two Gémeau awards for best direction for L'Odyssée and Don Quichotte, the Gémeau for best dramatic writing for Aurore and the Masque du Public for his adaptation of L'Odyssée.

    Champagne's work in theatre and television led to an invitation from Cirque du Soleil to direct Varekai in 2002. Champagne's next assignment for Cirque was to co-direct ZUMANITY with René Richard Cyr. Writing and directing LOVE has been both rewarding and enormously challenging for Champagne. "It was a privilege and a great honor to be asked to do this," he says.

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  • Andrew Watson

    Director of Creation

    After ten years of working on stage as an acrobat, Andrew Watson now works behind the scenes, as Director of Creation for Cirque du Soleil's new production, Zumanity. Previously, he played this role with Varekai, which premiered in the spring of 2002. This show marked a pivotal moment in the artistic career of a man who is no stranger to risk.

    In 1984, the year Cirque du Soleil was founded, he enrolled as a general artist in the Gerry Cottle Circus in London. He was 24 at the time and didn't have the gymnastic training of most acrobats. But that didn't stop him: he became a trapeze artist. In 1986, his duo performance at the Festival du Cirque de Demain, in Paris, earned him job offers from several well-known European circuses. He went on tour with the German circus troupe Roncalli, attracted by its blend of theatre and traditional circus elements.

    His Cirque de Demain performance was also noticed by Guy Caron, at the time artistic director of a youthful Cirque du Soleil. In 1987, drawn by Cirque's creativity and audacity, Andrew Watson joined the team of We Reinvent the Circus, the show that was to be the Quebec circus troupe's first major North American tour. Throughout his career as a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, Andrew Watson won several honours and awards, including the Clown d'argent at the Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo, in 1990. He left the ring in 1990, and subsequently held the positions of director of casting and artist training, artistic coordinator and artistic director. From 1994 to 1999, he was involved mainly in the shows Saltimbanco, Alegría and Quidam.

    In 1999, he decided to go back to London to live and work. Joining the New Millennium Experience Company, he designed the aerial acts and trained the acrobatic artists for the New Millennium Dome Central Show, presented in London as part of the year-2000 festivities. In 2001, he came back to Montreal with his family in order to oversee the creation of Varekai.

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  • Stéphane Roy

    Set Designer

    Stéphane Roy has worked as both a set designer and artistic director on over 100 productions in Montreal and abroad among which L’Odyssée, directed by Quebec playwright Dominic Champagne, at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (2002), and Les Âmes mortes, directed by Gilles Maheu, at Carbone 14 in Montreal (1996). Since 1990 he has designed sets for dance productions by such internationally-acclaimed dance troupes as La La La Human Steps and O Vertigo.While primarily active in theatre and dance, he has also worked in film, television, advertising and variety shows. Since 2011, Stéphane has been one of three artists in residence appointed by the Montreal Nature Museums group to create organic links between the city’s four natural science museums. He also designed The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terra Cotta Army exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011. His achievements have earned him many awards and honors, including being named Revelation of the Year, All Categories Combined, by the Association Québécoise des Critiques de Théâtre in 1989. In 1992, the same association honored him with the award for best set design. His talent has also been recognized by the Conseil des Arts de la Communauté Urbaine de Montréal, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television and the Académie Québécoise du Théâtre. For Cirque du Soleil, Stéphane designed the set for Dralion, Varekai, Zumanity, KOOZA, Zarkana and KURIOS – Cabinet of curiosities.

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  • Eiko Ishioka

    Costume Designer

    As a visual artist whose career spans several fields, Eiko Ishioka has created some of the most remarkable works of our time. She is one of the rare artists honoured in the West with an Academy Award, a Cannes Film Festival award, a Grammy Award and a Tony nomination, after having won some of the most prestigious art direction and graphic design awards in her native Japan. In 1999, she designed the costumes for the film The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez, as well as publishing the book Eiko on Stage, which focuses on her stage and screen work.

    Eiko Ishioka's talent was revealed to the North American public thanks to the Oscar-winning costumes she designed for Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. "Like all great artists in the world, Eiko understands what's going on in other cultures besides her own, and by immersing herself in them, she is able to create works that are unique blends. Her work transcends boundaries on many levels, since she refuses to stick to one particular medium or set convention," attests the director of Apocalypse Now.

    In fact, it was Coppola who invited Eiko Ishioka to her first Cirque du Soleil performance. Varekai marks her début in the world of the circus arts. As she explains, "After the publication of Eiko on Stage, I wanted to explore new horizons. This proposal came at a perfect time and I was seduced immediately since, as a spectator, I had already fallen under the spell of Cirque du Soleil." She adds that, "with Cirque du Soleil, I've discovered a new creative universe, which I embraced right from the start. Together, we're building a shared dream."

    Over the course of her career, Eiko Ishioka has left her mark in a variety of artistic fields, winning acclaim as an art director and graphic designer, production and costume designer, and museum exhibit designer, among other things. In 1983, she published a retrospective of her graphic design and art direction work entitled Eiko by Eiko. Ishioka was chosen as a keynote speaker for the 1998 International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado, and is in high demand as a lecturer around the world. In 2001, she designed racing uniforms and outerwear for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. She also directed the music video for the single"Cocoon", from Björk's album Vespertine.

    Her long list of accolades garnered in the West includes the 1985 Cannes Film Festival Award for Artistic Contribution for her production design work on the Paul Schrader film Mishima, Tony nominations in 1988 for the sets and costumes of the play M. Butterfly, and a 1987 Grammy Award for the artwork on the Miles Davis album Tutu. Eiko Ishioka is a laureate of the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, and her work is included in the permanent collections of museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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  • Violaine Corradi

    Composer and Musical Director

    Violaine Corradi was born in Trieste, Italy and arrived in Montreal at the age of four. Her father was a composer and conductor, and her mother an opera singer. In keeping with the family tradition, she received classical training in singing, piano, clarinet and side flute. At the age of seven, she joined the children’s choir that accompanied the Bolshoi Opera, the Milan Scala and the Opéra du Québec during performances at Place des Arts in Montreal.

    She later studied drama, and chose piano and voice as her principal instruments. Her work gradually evolved into a fusion of musical styles as she developed a strong interest in world music, which would later become pivotal in her compositions.

    Violaine’s work reflects the rich diversity of her influences and interests. She has composed scores for numerous exhibitions and films. From 1993 to 1998 she composed, arranged and interpreted the music to accompany leading Quebec poets in the audio series Poésie/musique. The nine titles in this collection, which she co-produced, have enjoyed wide success in international French-speaking markets. Some of the pieces from her 1996 solo album Passages, including Illuminations, are included in anthologies alongside works by such artists as Philip Glass, Jon Anderson and Andreas Vollenweider.

    Since 1999, Violaine has composed arranged, produced and served as musical director of the soundtrack of the IMAX films Bears and Great North, the Grand Prize winner of the 2001 Géode award at the Paris Film Festival.

    Violaine Corradi’s music for ZAIA is her third assignment with Cirque du Soleil, following Dralion and Varekai. "At Cirque du Soleil, the creators are asked to work in a vacuum, like the acrobats. But we also engage in a collective creation: That is our safety net,” she says. “The director, Gilles Maheu had an inspiring vision for ZAIA that greatly stimulated my creative process for the show. When I write the musical score, I first develop the themes that the characters inspire in me, because everything flows from them.”

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  • Michael Montanaro

    Choreographer

    Michael Montanaro defines himself as a multidisciplinary artist and an artisan. He uses acting, music and video as his means of expression, but is best known both in Canada and abroad for his contributions to the world of dance. Between 1980 and 1985, with Groupe de la Place Royale, and from 1985 to 1996, with his troupe, Montanaro Danse, this choreographer's creations appeared on major Canadian stages and at leading cultural events in France, England, the United States and Singapore. Montanaro created 15 choreographic works in all for Groupe de la Place Royale when Jean-Pierre Perreault was at its helm, and as artistic director, dancer and composer for Montanaro Danse, created 12 shows that incorporated new technology into contemporary dance. During the 1990s, Montanaro also worked with the Opéra de Montréal, Montreal's Centaur Theatre, the National Film Board of Canada, and Discreet Logic, a company that specializes in computer-assisted animation.

    Michael Montanaro grew up in the French-speaking neighbourhood of a small New England town. He got his introduction to the stage by taking part in the community's folk music ensemble. After dance studies at Hartford Conservatory and a stint with the Boston Ballet, he set off for Quebec, in search of adventure. When he crossed the border in 1974, Montanaro had only seven suitcases, a television and high hopes of finding his place in the Montreal dance milieu. A few months later, Fernand Nault, then director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, took Montanaro under his wing. Montreal was to become Montanaro's home base.

    Since the mid-1990s, he has played a role in training the next generation of dancers at Université du Québec à Montréal, Concordia University, and the University of Calgary, and was choreographer in residence at Arizona State University's Institute for Studies in the Arts. In 1999, he became acting chair of the Contemporary Dance Department at Concordia University in Montreal. In 2001, the invitation from Cirque du Soleil for Varekai and the guarantee of a solid replacement as department head prompted him to take a sabbatical from his university career.

    Michael Montanaro wants his creations to reach the wider public. For this reason, his choreographies are light years away from the darkness and obscurity often associated with contemporary dance. "The circus is a festive art, without being trivial. Like a magnet, it pulls us away from our day-to-day problems for a moment, toward a universe where everything is possible. It's much more than just entertainment," says Montanaro.

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  • Bill Shannon

    Choreographer

    For more than ten years, Bill Shannon has been making his mark on the most prestigious alternative stages in the U.S. and around the world, and waking up the streets of New York and Chicago with his kinetic exploits. As well as being a renowned dancer and choreographer, this Brooklyn resident expresses himself through video, writing, drawing and installations. Bill regularly presents shows in the United States and at contemporary art and dance festivals in France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland and Jordan. He has a bachelor's degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Bill Shannon is a self-styled interdisciplinary artist, but he is known in the club dance world as "the CrutchMaster." He has invented a unique technique for dancing on crutches—the Shannon Technique—that derives from his extensive experience in their use as a mobility aid. In fact, until Varekai, he was the only practitioner of this technique. "In my choreography, I aim to merge the Shannon Technique with freestyle street dancing, skateboarding and silent film poetics," he explains.

    Numerous awards and distinctions have recognized the avant-garde quality of Shannon's creations. Since 2000, he has received the Downtown Art/Colbert Foundation's Emerging Arts Award, as well as grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art and the Jerome Foundation, and has twice been supported by the Fund for US Artists at International Festivals.

    "My favourite place for experimentation and expression is the street. It allows for chance encounters and discoveries, both human and artistic, that couldn't be designed or planned in a million years," he says.

    Bill Shannon was born in 1970 and is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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  • Jaque Paquin

    Acrobatic Equipment and Rigging Designer

    There’s no formal training for a profession like Jaque Paquin’s. “To do it, you have to do it,” he says. Jaque studied art history (specializing in film) and electronics in school, and began his career in the arts working as a lighting technician at the age of 14. The following year, he opened a disco.

    He went on to work as a stage technician in theatre, a set painter in film, a grip in television and, finally, as a carpenter, team leader and project head in a set construction workshop for theatre and variety shows. "I've worked in nearly all of the trades plied by the people who build and operate my equipment," he says. “So I make an effort to facilitate the work of the technicians and the artists.”

    Jaque joined Cirque du Soleil in 1990 as head of the construction workshop, where he created aerial environments for such shows as Saltimbanco, Dralion, Varekai, Zumanity, KÀ and “O”. From 1991 to 1996, he was Technical Director for the North American tour of Saltimbanco, and he was the show’s Technical Director when it toured Europe and Japan. In 1995 and 1996, he was director of all installations for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and the FrancoFolies de Montréal.

    His imagination, artistic flair, and technical skill conjured up the fantastic boat in "O" – a piece of acrobatic equipment that brings together three techniques never before combined in the history of circus arts: the parallel bars, the Korean cradle and the flying trapeze.

    Whether working on the rigging for a show or as head of research and development for Cirque du Soleil's acrobatic equipment, Jaque is constantly on the lookout for ways to give a new look to a wide variety of circus arts. However, he says, “There’s never any compromise for safety. If an artistic vision can be achieved only by lowering the safety standards, then that element of the show will be dropped.”

    For CRISS ANGEL Believe™, Jaque Paquin has designed the equipment used in the illusions as well as the rigging for all of the scenic equipment (sound, lighting and set decorations). "We’ve developed unprecedented techniques, especially for the magic numbers," he says. “I like to say that this show contains some of my best inventions that I will never be able to talk about."

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  • Nol van Genuchten

    Lighting Designer

    Varekai is Nol van Genuchten's baptism of fire as lighting designer for a Cirque du Soleil show. It is also the fulfilment of a dream he has pursued since the age of 14, when he followed a neighbourhood theatre troupe on its tour of the Netherlands . "I am a child of the circus," he says jokingly. Nol van Genuchten has been a member of the Cirque du Soleil family for over twelve years, working in French, English, Dutch and German.

    Initially hired in 1994 as a lighting technician for the European tour of Saltimbanco, he subsequently joined the team as lighting co-ordinator, a position he held until the end of the tour. In 1996, he became the assistant to lighting designer Luc Lafortune. "Luc has been my mentor, my enabler, and my guru. It is to him that I owe the privilege of being a full participant in the Cirque du Soleil creative process." Nol van Genuchten collaborated on the creation of "O", La Nouba and Dralion . In 1999, he also had a hand in the renewal of the lighting concepts for Saltimbanco, Alegría and Quidam.

    Since 1999, Nol van Genuchten has designed the lighting for several special events organized by Cirque du Soleil. But he views his participation in Varekai as a precious gift. "It's a fascinating journey, in that the designers on the team come from a variety of backgrounds, including circus, theatre, visual arts, and music. But it also gives me the jitters at times, because I've had to discover the designer within me and make my own way."

    In order to stretch the possibilities of light, Nol van Genuchten strives to develop a close relationship with the artists. Their universe is one he already knows well, having studied acting and directing at Rijkshogeschool Maastricht, a prestigious theatre school in the Netherlands . After a year of training, he went back to his first love: lighting for live shows, notably those of Dutch humorist Paul Haenen.

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  • François Bergeron

    Sound Designer

    François Bergeron has been designing sound for Cirque du Soleil for more than 20 years. His creations (Nouvelle Expérience, Saltimbanco, Quidam, "O", La Nouba, Varekai and ZED) have toured the world, earning him multiple awards, including "Sound Designer of the Year,” for multimedia facilities at the Nike flagship store in New York and Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. He was part of the creation team that won a THEA Award for “O” in Las Vegas.

    Since moving to Los Angeles in 1993, François has designed the sound for numerous variety shows, plays, musicals, theme parks and museum experiences. He took part in the creation of the Tokyo DisneySea theme park and Templo del Fuego (Universal Studios Port Aventura in Spain), an assignment that eventually led to the creation of his own company, Thinkwell Design & Production. François regularly works on projects throughout the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

    "The soundscape can elicit powerful emotions within a Cirque show,” he says. “It can warn of impending danger, heighten tension or trigger laughter. It is impossible to escape its influence. My challenge as the Sound Designer is to create an atmosphere that conveys the intentions of the director, highlights the music and support the artists."

    “To create the sound environment of IRIS, we used tools and techniques that are poles apart,” he adds. “On the one hand, we designed and installed an advanced sound system. On the other, we took a purely organic approach to create some of the sound effects, using anything we could lay our hands on. It’s a mixture of advanced digital technology and old-school know-how. This is our tribute to the film artisans.”

    François Bergeron was born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

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  • Francis Laporte

    Image and Projection Designer

    Video Projections Designer Francis Laporte belongs to the new generation of creators who integrate digital video production and projection technology with more traditional live show forms. Since finishing university in 1992, he has worked on some 20 projects integrating video with the performing arts and theatre. One of his landmark professional assignments was the video design for a stage adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey directed by Dominic Champagne. He also does performances and installations, both alone and with other artists.

    As a projections designer, Francis Laporte can make good use of his diverse training. After studying communications and drama in college, he entered the theatre program at the Université du Québec, specializing in directing and stage design. His interest in images led him to video and multimedia production. “In drama, I looked at shows from the director’s point of view, whereas in video my approach was more theatrical. As a video designer for live shows, I’m finally working on bringing these media together,” he says.

    Francis Laporte also creates images for prestigious television broadcasts, such as the opening ceremonies of the Jeux de la Francophonie and the awards ceremony La Soirée des Jutra. In 2003-2004 he developed the visual concept for Eros Ramazzotti’s show (directed by Serge Denoncourt) and created the set design and visual concept for a performance of the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. He has also taken on the stage design for live concerts, including Quebec singer-cellist Jorane and singer-songwriter Stefie Shock.

    In 1999, Francis Laporte created the multimedia overture for Dralion. But Varekai was the first Cirque du Soleil show to fully incorporate this new artistic language. He further extended his approach in LOVE, Wintuk and now in CRISS ANGEL Believe. “At Cirque du Soleil, we have the great good fortune of working in a context where everything isn’t seen in terms of constraints; instead there’s a shared determination to see how far we can push the limits,” he notes.

    "Visually, my role is to give the dimension of perspective and depth to the world of CRISS ANGEL Believe," says Francis Laporte. “The projections help to give the various environments a ‘Gothic/Victorian' flavor by blending the mysterious with the grandiose, the bizarre and the sublime. The core intention of the projections is to play with the perceptions, creating a kind of playful dialogue between the real and the virtual."

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  • Cahal McCrystal

    Clown Act Creator

    Since 1996, Cahal McCrystal has devoted himself full time to creating and directing shows for various European theatre companies. He's one of the few British directors to focus almost exclusively on clown comedies. The clown acts he has created for Zumanity mark his second association with Cirque du Soleil: in 2002, he was part of the creative team that worked on Varekai.

    Cahal's plays, written for major British theatre companies such as Spymonkey, Peepolykus, and The Boosh comedy duo, have touched audiences worldwide and kept them rolling in the aisles.

    In 2000, his play Stiff, staged for Spymonkey, won the Total Theatre Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was also named best act at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. The Mighty Boosh, launched at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival garnered the Perrier Award for Best New Comedy. Although critics have compared his characters to those of Mel Brooks, Monty Python and the Marx Brothers, Cahal's true goal is to create clowns with their own distinct personalities.

    "My job is to bring out the clown in actors and this clown emerges when you play up their personal foibles. This requires a great deal of humility and generosity on the part of the actors. But it's also highly gratifying. We admire people for their successes, but we love them for their weaknesses. That's why we adore clowns—they show us their very human and silly sides!"

    Before becoming a full-time director, this graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama had a prolific 15-year acting career in theatre, film, television and radio. In the late '80s, Swiss writer, director and actor Philippe Byland invited Cahal to join his company. It was also in London that Cahal met his future mentor Philippe Gaulier, the dean of French theatre, who cast him in At the End of the Tunnel. One day, he would attend a show that truly blew him away—Cirque du Soleil's We Reinvent the Circus.

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  • André Simard

    Acrobatic Performance Designer

    André Simard has been working with Cirque du Soleil since 1987. That year, he created a swinging trapeze act for the show Nouvelle Expérience, sparking a genuine revolution in high-flying aerial movement. Under his direction, the acrobatic feats performed by artists in motion somewhere between Earth and sky, either in a theatre or under a big top, achieved the fluidity of ballet. Between 1989 and 2000, 13 of the acts he created for Cirque du Soleil, the National Circus School and his own company of artists, Studio de création les gens d'R, garnered accolades in festivals attended by the finest circus artists from all over the world.

    The new circus arts are indebted to Simard for his creation of the discipline of aerial silk acrobatics in 1995. Another example of technological and choreographic innovation, stemming from his collaboration with acrobatic apparatus designer Jaque Paquin, was the Boat act in "O". As well, Simard has designed most of the aerial acts in the shows that Cirque performs around the world.

    For over 30 years, André Simard has succeeded in striking a harmonious balance between his three areas of expertise: the fine arts, elite sports, and the circus. In the early 1970s, he was a member of Canada's national gymnastics team while a student at the Institut des arts graphiques de Montréal. In addition, while preparing to compete in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, he trained clowns and other public entertainers at the Centre Immaculée-Conception in Montréal, a forerunner of the National Circus School. In his own words, he is "constantly trying to meld the rules of biomechanics, as applied to athletic training, with the evocative power of the performing arts." This approach has also infused his teaching at the National Circus School, as well as at the Centre national des arts du cirque de Châlons-sur-Marne and the École nationale de Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois, both in France.

    In 1995 he founded the Studio de création les gens d'R in Montréal, an artistic endeavor that affords him the opportunity to push the envelope of emotional expression through aerial movement. In 2001 this troupe gave the world premiere performance of Échos in Venice. The show was commissioned by the organizers of that city's celebrated Biennale arts festival.

    "For CRISS ANGEL Believe, I’ve come up with a way for the dervish characters to spin by hiding ropes inside their costumes," he says. "I've also introduced acrobatic elements into the stilt walkers’ dance numbers, and I’ve devised a motorized acrobatic mechanism for the character of Kayala: When she emerges from her flower to do her hoop routine, she grabs hold of the petals, which in reality are made out of transparent flexible PVC tubes built into her costume."

    André Simard was born in 1945 in Montreal.

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  • Nathalie Gagné

    Makeup Designer

    Nathalie Gagné was one of the first graduates of the Montreal branch of the famed Paris-based makeup school École Christian Chauveau. Before joining Cirque du Soleil, Nathalie worked in theatre, film and television. She has twice been nominated for a Gémeau award for best makeup, all categories combined. The honor is conferred by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Since 1995 Nathalie has crafted more than 1,000 separate makeup designs for 16 Cirque du Soleil shows. In 2010, Nathalie designed the makeup for the play Il Campiello by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Serge Denoncourt, and for the 3D movie Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away produced by James Cameron and directed by Andrew Adamson in 2012.

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