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Showtime for Cirque du Soleil

The Story

If they can make it there, they'll make it anywhere. Just four years after a group of Montreal street performers opened their first show as Cirque du Soleil, they're preparing to take their big top to New York City. Combining elements of circus, theatre, dance and gymnastics, Cirque is a troupe like no other, and they've already won over San Francisco and Los Angeles. In this 1988 profile, The Fifth Estate goes backstage to find a Canadian success story on its way up. 

Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: May 9, 1988
Guest(s): Michel Beret, Denis Lacombe, Guy Laliberté, Annie Liebowitz
Host: Eric Malling
Reporter: Robert McKeown
Duration: 16:55

Did You know?

• The precursor to Cirque du Soleil was le Club des Talons Hauts (High Heels Club), a group of stilt walkers and other street performers. Among them was fire breather Guy Laliberte, who would become a founder of Cirque du Soleil alongside stilt walker Gilles Ste-Croix.

• Cirque du Soleil's first show, on June 16, 1984, featured 20 performers under the big top in Gaspe, Que. Funded by the province, the troupe toured Quebec in 1984 to help celebrate the 450th anniversary of the arrival of explorer Jacques Cartier.

• According to the Globe and Mail, Cirque du Soleil was a hit in New York when it opened in 1988. Critics called it "absolutely terrific" and "the classiest circus you're likely to see."

• In 1993, after years of successful tours on three continents, Cirque du Soleil opened its first permanent show, Mystère, in Las Vegas. A second permanent show, the aquatic O, was created in 1998. As of May 2009 there were six resident Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas and five others in New York, Chicago, Orlando, Tokyo and Macao.

• As of May 2009, Cirque du Soleil employed over 4,000 people, one-quarter of them performers. About 1,500 worked at the Cirque's headquarters in Montreal.

• "Given its slick show, boundless enthusiasm, entrepreneurial flair and sense of momentum, Le Cirque du Soleil stands a good chance of turning the circus into a rare Canadian cultural entity - one that makes money." - Globe and Mail, Dec. 8, 1986



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