At the core of the creative energy of all Cirque du Soleil shows are athletes, acrobats and stage artists at the pinnacle of their art. These men and women are driven by a passion to continually surpass themselves.
Each artist is part and parcel of the originality of Cirque du Soleil shows, and the Casting team—composed of some 60 people, including 21 talent scouts—does everything in its power to find exceptional artists. In its work of discovering and researching candidates, the Casting team is supported by a global network of partners that act as Cirque’s eyes and ears in the field. This structure means we have a varied and continually developing overview of territories and so we are able to discover artists from various talent communities.
An ongoing challenge
The Casting team’s overall mission is to discover and recommend talent for current and upcoming Cirque du Soleil productions. With an increasing number of shows lasting 15 years on average, recruiting artists is a challenge. Talent scouts are looking for originality, talent and the unusual. The world is their playground, which they go over with a fine-tooth comb by holding auditions and scouting during competitions, festivals and various events. In some disciplines, the pool of artists is not renewing itself as quickly as replacement needs arise. Talent scouts must therefore pull out all the stops to find artists whose talent meets the level of quality of Cirque du Soleil shows. They are interested in the evolution of artistic disciplines and keep an eye on the development of trends in order to be able to propose new disciplines as required.
Auditions, scouting, conferences and website
The talent scouting team is broken down by speciality, with individual talent scouts in charge of finding artists in their assigned discipline. Cirque du Soleil holds auditions year-round all over the world. These auditions take place over one or more days and involve in-depth analysis of candidates’ abilities in a number of different respects. Technical skills are assessed, along with candidates’ openness and ability to explore new ways of doing things and to step outside their comfort zone.
Via scouting and conferences, the Casting team also works to promote Cirque du Soleil, its roots, its organization, etc. Many people are not familiar with the company and its various opportunities for stage careers for athletes, acrobats and stage artists. A website dedicated to recruiting was therefore developed to remedy this situation. Available in seven languages, the site is a “virtual talent scout” present on all continents. It informs candidates about the various disciplines sought and the work environment, in addition to providing artist and mentor testimonials, talent scout biographies and instructions for applying online.
Over the years, the Casting team has created opportunities and implemented flexible, innovative methods of discovering new artists. Some disciplines require a different recruiting approach, and the strategies adopted vary based on each community’s reality. Similarly, the messages communicated via social networking sites, the Casting newsletter and the promotion of recruitment activities are tailored based on the strategy developed to reach the target audience.
Sports disciplines and circus arts
More than half of Cirque du Soleil artists come from a sports background. For many years now, Cirque has offered stage career opportunities for athletes whose competitive career is drawing to an end. This represents an opportunity for them to acquire new skills in the performing arts and to transform their career. This approach opens new doors for sports such as artistic, acrobatic and rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, tumbling, synchronized swimming and diving.
This scouting is done with clear ethics in place and the approval of the relevant sports associations, including the International Federation of Gymnastics. Cirque du Soleil recognizes, respects and values the existence of a prior and privileged relationship between the athletes and their national sports organizations— a relationship that contributes to the acquisition of high-level skills and from which the company greatly benefits.
As regards to circus arts, Casting has been developing and maintaining links with circus schools worldwide for many years, and stays up to speed on emerging trends.
In addition, Cirque du Soleil has recently set up delocalized training programs. Located in China and Russia, these first training centres provide complete, customized circus arts training to hand-picked athletes.
Singers, musicians, dancers, actors and clowns play a big role in creating magic in our shows— whether through their musical talent, ability to convey emotion though movement, or aptitude for engaging the audience directly. All these artists have one thing in common—they all hail from the performing arts world.
While complementary, each of these artistic disciplines has its own particularities. This is why the Casting team uses means appropriate to each discipline for recruiting candidates. For example, dancers are used to large auditions surrounded by other dancers, while clowns prefer to be seen in a show, where they benefit from the audience’s reaction. We must therefore follow the recruiting trends in each of the talent communities and adapt our approach.
“Casting partners” abroad
In some regions, Cirque du Soleil gives specialists specific monitoring or recruiting assignments. These partners include coaches, teachers, small companies or federations with a good contact network. They are thoroughly familiar with Cirque du Soleil and can convey its philosophy and values in the field. In this way, Cirque has eyes and ears all over the world.
Over the years and through its many recruitment activities, the Casting team has received material from an impressive number of candidates. While not all of them end up in a Cirque du Soleil show, many show promise as potential replacements in current shows or upcoming creations. The Casting team plays a consulting role with the various creation teams, directors and artistic directors by showing them acts or artists discovered at auditions or scouting activities. The creation teams leave it up to the experts to find the talent that will give each show its unique character.
Cirque du Soleil is probably the only company in the world that recruits artists for shows that have such a long lifespan. The challenge is huge, since there is no model to follow or reference in this field. The best way for the Cirque du Soleil Casting team to do its work is to continually renew itself, never compromise on quality, and tirelessly explore new methods!
For more information about Casting and its activities: www.cirquedusoleil.com/jobs
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