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How it all began – the history of the Cirque du Soleil

“People might think that we set out to reinvent the circus, and then just did it. But things did not happened that way. We were a bunch of crazy people who wanted to do things, and little by little we came to a vision of what the modern circus could be.”
René Dupéré, music composer for 10 Cirque du Soleil shows

Embryonic beginnings

In the early 1980s, a troupe of performers founded by Gilles Ste-Croix took to the streets of Baie-Saint-Paul, a charming village on the shores of the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (The Stiltwalkers of Baie-Saint-Paul) – including one Guy Laliberté – juggled, danced, breathed fire and played music, to the delight of locals and visitors. 

Born in a celebration

Guy Laliberté saw Quebec’s celebration of the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada as an opportunity to take the troupe on an official province-wide tour in 1984. The show was a striking, dramatic mix of circus arts (without animals) and street performance that featured wild, outrageous costumes, magical lighting, and original music. He dubbed it Cirque du Soleil because, in his own words, “The sun symbolizes youth, energy, and strength.”

The turning point

Cirque du Soleil visited the US for the first time in 1987. We Reinvent the Circus wowed Los Angeles Festival audiences and media alike with its unique combination of set design, theater-in-the-round, and audience involvement – both physically and imaginatively – and marked the refinement of the creative process that still drives the creation of every new Cirque du Soleil show. It not only played to astonished sell-out crowds in San Diego and Santa Monica, but also spearheaded Cirque du Soleil’s initial 1990 foray into Europe with performances in London and Paris.

A milestone in the desert

1993’s Mystère became the first permanent Cirque du Soleil show, performed in a Las Vegas theater built to its specifications. Over two decades later, Mystère is still going strong, and led the way for a huge variety of other permanent Las Vegas shows. Cirque du Soleil was here to stay, and in the following years conquered Asia, Europe, and South America with a series of new creations that tour the world in large arenas or under the big top.

Still so much more to imagine

Now in its fourth decade, Cirque du Soleil has expanded in a wide range of creative endeavors ranging from movies to apparel and from boutiques to nightclubs. But the essence of what we do has stayed constant: we invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world.