Fascinating Facts About Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is a unique circus that went from being a group of about 20 performers to becoming an elaborate and jaw-dropping production that millions see in cities worldwide. Founded in 1984 in Montreal, this show is sure to keep growing and gaining fans around the globe.

Here, you will learn the show’s 35-year history. You’ll also find out what the performers and owners are planning next and where you can see a Cirque du Soleil performance for yourself. Prepare to be amazed.

Cirque du Soleil Had Humble, But Lucky, Beginnings

stilt walking
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

The elaborate performance show now known as Cirque du Soleil, like most such outfits, did not start out that way. In fact, there were originally just 20 members of a street troupe, and the name “Cirque du Soleil” was nowhere to be found.

The troupe wowed passersby as they did things like breathing fire and juggling in a quaint area of Quebec, Canada. During this time, Guy Laliberté, a college dropout, was a member of the motley group. He asked the Canadian government for a grant to take his troupe to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Canada’s discovery. He wound up with $ 1 million for that purpose, and Cirque du Soleil was born.

The Name For The Show Was Born On A Beach In Hawaii

Cirque
Pinterest/cirquedusoleil
Pinterest/cirquedusoleil

"Cirque du Soleil" was not the original troupe’s name. When they were a group of 20 street performers, they called themselves Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stiltwalkers). However, after Guy Laliberté got his contract with the Canadian government, all that changed. He described a Hawaiian vacation in which the circus act’s current name was born.

"When I need to take time to reenergize, I go somewhere by the ocean to sit back and watch the sunsets. That is where the idea of ‘Soleil’ came from, on a beach in Hawaii, and because the Sun is the symbol of youth and energy."

That Tiny Little Street Troupe Has Now Morphed Into 23 Live Shows

soleil vegas
David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images
David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil certainly wasted no time shedding its humble beginnings. The show now not only has much more elaborate staged acts, but it also has six permanent shows in Las Vegas, Nevada. Further, there were ten acts in its very first debut in Quebec, and that debut toured a whopping 15 cities. Today, those are acts that have made their way all around around the world.

In addition, there are now 12 other shows from Cirque du Soleil that are on tour, along with “Algeria,” a popular production that has been “reinterpreted in a renewed version” for upcoming shows.

The Expense Of Cirque du Soleil Productions Is Out Of This World

The KA Cirque du Soleil performance
Ryan Miller/Getty Images
Ryan Miller/Getty Images

It should come as no surprise that putting on such showstopping entertainment like Cirque du Soleil does not come cheap. One of their shows, “Ka,” which made its first appearance back in 2005, cost an estimated $165 million for just the creation of the production alone.

This particular version of Cirque du Soleil actually had a real, live acrobatic battle. That is no small technical undertaking, and things like visuals, sound, travel, and safety quickly run-up the cost. For a solid, real-world comparison, Cirque du Soleil’s “KA” cost twice what Broadway’s “Spiderman” production cost.

Cirque Du Soleil Is Incredibly Dangerous To Perform

Artists perform during Cirque du Soleil presents
David Benito/Getty Images
David Benito/Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil is nothing short of iconic. From its humble beginnings as a piece of small-town street performance art to its place on the most prestigious stages in the world, this is a show any artist would dream of being a part of. However, there is a dark side to performing in Cirque du Soleil. With all of the high-flying visuals, stunts, and daredevil exploits comes an incredible amount of danger.

The aforementioned piece, “KA,” with its incredible battle scene, was actually the cause of the death of a Cirque du Soleil performer, Sarah Guillot-Guyard. That happened in a 2013 performance, and was the first time Cirque du Soleil saw a performer die on stage.

Cirque du Soleil’s Longest Running Show Is Also Its Most Family-Friendly

Musicians from Cirque du Soleil Mystere perform onstage
Michael Caulfield/WireImage
Michael Caulfield/WireImage

In contrast to the dangerous, thrilling daredevil moves of shows like “KA,” Cirque du Soleil also has tamer performances that are great for the entire family to enjoy. One such show is “Mystere.” Making its debut in 1993 in Las Vegas, this version of Cirque du Soleil is its longest-running and also one of its most popular.

Versions of the production like “Mystere” are certainly much more friendly to all audiences than other forms of the show.

There Are Now Six Permanent Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil Shows

cirque hive 5
Trae Patton/Paramount Network via Getty Images
Trae Patton/Paramount Network via Getty Images

While many Cirque du Soleil shows come and go at various locations, there are some shows that are so good that they get to stay permanently. There are twenty-three permanent shows around the world. Six of these are in Las Vegas, Nevada — one of the most prominent cities in the world for exotic, unique shows.

These shows are “KA,” “Michael Jackson One,” “Mystere,” “O,” “R.U.N,” “The Beatles Love,” and “Zumanity.” Each of these shows has been wildly popular over the years with their respective target audiences, and therefore permanently reside in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

Cirque du Soleil Added A Daring Twist In 2017

Acrobats on ice perform their act during a preview opportunity for the press ahead of the Cirque Du Soleil show 'CRYSTAL
Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images
Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil is known for its dangerous, death-defying stunts, with performers flying high in the air and doing things you would think would be humanly impossible. However, the team at Cirque du Soleil apparently decided in 2017 that the show was not daring or dazzling enough. That is when they debuted “Crystal,” a new type of Cirque du Soleil show.

“Crystal” is similar to what everyone is used to seeing from Cirque du Soleil, with all of the amazing stunts, costumes, and everything else. The difference? It’s on ice, and all the performers are skating.

The Olympics Are Very Important To Cirque du Soleil

Swimmers perform
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil, as we all know by now, is no ordinary circus. Its performers have to be exceptionally skilled to pull off the stunts that dazzle so many audiences around the world. The massive troupe of performers is more than 1,300 hundred strong, with representation from more than 50 countries. However, most people would never guess where many of these performers come from.

Olympians tend to have rather short-lived athletic careers. They need to have alternate work when they leave the world of competitive sports, and many wind up in Cirque du Soleil. This is a little-known fact, but many of Cirque’s performers are former rhythmic gymnasts, divers, or other Olympic athletes, to the tune of about 40 percent of the Cirque du Soleil cast.

Training To Become A Cirque du Soleil Performer Is Very Intense

cirque 7 hive
Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images
Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images

In addition to hiring former Olympians and other elite dancers and athletes, Cirque du Soleil makes all of its performers go through its own specialized training to join the elite circus troupe. Cirque du Soleil actually has its own training facility in Montreal, Quebec in Canada at its international headquarters.

Training varies depending on a performer’s show and role, but there are often trainings, workouts, and warm-ups that are required to be done daily, and often take an hour and a half or more. In addition, there are also conditioning exercises, such as sit-ups, pull-ups, and other moves designed to keep performers’ bodies in top shape.

Cirque du Soleil Cast And Crew Eat Massive Amounts Of Food

Kitchen
Twitter/Cirque
Twitter/Cirque

All serious athletes tend to have very specialized diets. The people who perform with Cirque du Soleil are no different. It is estimated that the five chefs who cook for the cast and crew of Cirque du Soleil shows prepare between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds of food per week at each show, including between 90 and 100 pounds of protein per meal. This information comes courtesy of an interview from 2017 with Paola Miller, the kitchen manager for Cirque du Soleil.

In addition to the massive amount of food, the Cirque kitchens also add a special twist by localizing their cuisine. For instance, there would be lobster in Maine, or bison in Denver, to really give the cast and crew the experience of authentic local cuisine.

Safety Concerns Are Always At The Top Of The List For Cirque Du Soleil

cirque 9 hive
Trae Patton/Paramount Network via Getty Images
Trae Patton/Paramount Network via Getty Images

Performing in a Cirque du Soleil show is extremely dangerous. As mentioned earlier, there has been at least one fatality as the result of such performances. Cirque du Soleil takes extreme precautions to ensure the safety of all cast, crew, and everyone else involved in each and every production.

There were also 53 injuries at the permanent Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, and another fatality occurred in 2018 during a presentation of the Cirque du Soleil show “Volta” in the state of Florida. Despite the injuries and risks, some performers call the safety precautions “annoying.”

The Costumes For Cirque du Soleil’s Water Show Are Nothing Short Of Pure Genius

cirque 10 hive
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil

One of the most important — and difficult — parts to putting together a Cirque du Soleil show is the costuming. This is due to the fact that one of the hallmarks of the show is its stunning costume ensembles, but the other trademark is the incredible athleticism of the shows themselves. Therefore, the costumes have to visually wow the audience, but they also have to be durable and athletic enough to allow for the performers to move in such dangerously complex ways.

Things get even more complicated when you contemplate the Cirque Du Soleil water show, “O.” The costume designers really rise to the occasion here, with costumes made out of all kinds of creative materials, including shower curtains.

“Luzia” Brings Cirque du Soleil To Us En Espanol

Artists of the Canadian entertainment company
ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images
ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil generally relies upon mimes and visuals rather than words to tell its story and perform its show, and everyone involved does a brilliant job of it, too. However, the show decided to expand its cultural appeal by creating “Luzia,” which is the first Cirque du Soleil show that is performed entirely in Spanish.

The name “Luzia” comes from a creative combination of Spanish words. “Luz” means light in Spanish, and “lluvia” means rain. The “Luzia” show features the usual stunning costumes and acrobatic routines, but any speech is entirely in Spanish, making it quite a unique Cirque du Soleil show.

If You Can’t See Cirque du Soleil Live, Do It In Virtual Reality

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil
Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil has to be one of the most fascinating, dazzlingly stunning shows anyone could ever see live. However, there is the fact that not everyone will ever actually get to see such a show live. Because the people who developed this magnificent show realize this, they have now created the ultimate Cirque experience: virtual reality.

This comes courtesy of Paris-based MR2, a virtual cinemas company with the rights to Cirque du Soleil. Customers who have virtual reality equipment like Google Daydream, Samsung VR2, Oculus Rift, and others can experience “KA,” “O,” “Luzia,” and more.

If You Love The Beatles, Cirque du Soleil Has You Covered

Cast members from the Beatles 'Love' by Cirque du Soleil perform onstage
Kevin Winter/WireImage
Kevin Winter/WireImage

The Beatles are easily one of the world’s most iconic bands. Naturally, there have been impersonators and Beatles cover bands and all sorts of attempts to recreate that magic. However, none of these acts could ever hold a candle to “LOVE,” the Cirque du Soleil show that is based on the iconic music.

“LOVE” has actually lasted longer than the Beatles themselves did, and is a Las Vegas staple. This version of Cirque du Soleil often comes very close to selling out theaters and is likely to remain one of Cirque du Soleil’s most popular shows.

Princess Diana Was A Cirque Fan, And So Is Her Son Prince Harry

cirque 14 hive
Ken Lennox/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Ken Lennox/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The late Princess Diana of Wales was reportedly a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, and took her sons, Princes William and Harry, to see the show as children. After her tragic death in a car accident, her legacy lives on in many ways. One way in which this happens is that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are Cirque du Soleil fans as well.

The couple was spotted at a show in 2019, attending a charity viewing of the iconic circus act. Markle wore one of Princess Diana’s braceless, as well as a Diana-inspired dress.

Cirque du Soleil Also Does Outreach For At Risk Youth

Cast members of Cirque du Monde pose for photos with students
Denise Truscello/WireImage
Denise Truscello/WireImage

Behind all the glitz, glamour, and dazzle, there is a much more serious side to Cirque du Soleil. The company also cares deeply about at-risk youth, and they are doing something to help this incredibly vulnerable population, with a program they’ve dubbed “Cirque du Monde.”

It is based on the concept of a “social circus,” where the circus life can take at-risk youth and build community, self-esteem, life skills, and a place to call home when there is nowhere else to turn. This show is not merely for entertainment. It is also a service organization.

The Meaning Of “Cirque du Soleil”

Artists perform during Cirque du Soleil presents
David Benito/Getty Images
David Benito/Getty Images

To many Americans, the words “Cirque du Soleil” are just a fancy name for a circus started by French-speaking Canadians that went worldwide. However, it is much more than that. Cirque du Soliel — yes, even its very NAME — has a rich and unique history behind it. For starters, the name, the words, ” Cirque du Soleil,” literally means “circus of the sun.”

Just like the founding troupe member Guy Laliberté told Fortune, it is a place to re-energize. Cirque du Soleil has brought much sunlight to many, both literally and figuratively.

Cirque du Soleil Lives In The Hearts Of Many

Artists perform at a media preview in the all-new Cirque du Soleil production KURIOS
PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images
PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images

In its 35-year history, Cirque du Soleil has inspired so many people, from everyday folks to royalty such as the Princess of Wales. This show has helped at-risk youth, employed thousands of artists, and given Olympians careers after they left the world of competitive sports. The magic goes beyond just the dazzling shows, costumes, and acrobatics.

There is a world beyond our busy lives, and Cirque can help open the door to that magical world.