It means the “Circus of the Sun,” Cirque du Soleil is a popular Canadian entertainment company that mixes circus arts with street entertainment. It is based in Montreal and was founded in 1984 by Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste Croix. It traces its roots to a performing troupe called Les Echassiers that toured Quebec in 1980. It then received a government grant in 1983 as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier’s voyage. It then changed its name to Cirque du Soleil the year after.
The company is known for its theatrical and character-driven style. It does not make use of animals like other circuses. Instead, it mounts shows that are synthesis of circus acts from around the world. The music is continuous and the performers themselves change the props instead of utilizing stagehands.
Today, the company has the ability to stage 19 shows and has in its employ more than 4,000 people. It has shows in over 271 cities in every continent outside of Antarctica. Annual revenues total more than $810 million. Its shows in Las Vegas attract more than 9,000 people each night, accounting for as much as five percent of the city’s visitors.
Anything the company mounts is guaranteed to be a spectacular. Some however have gotten more acclaim than others. Here is a list of the top 10 best Cirque du Soleil shows ever mounted.
1. O – Resident Show at Bellagio in Las Vegas
This is a water-themed production that has been staged since October 1998. It takes its name from “eau,” which is the French word for water. The main stage is a pool of water measuring 5,700 square meters and all the action takes place in, around or above this body of water. Performers do synchronized swimming, ground acts and aerial stunts. It usually plays twice a day in a 1,800-seat theater.
2. La Nouba – Resident Show at Walt Disney World in Florida
The title gets its name from the French phrase that goes “faire la nouba,” which means to party or to live it up. Created by Franco Dragone in 1998, this is a contemporary circus that features acrobats and gymnasts, as well as other skilled performers. It is held in a customized, freestanding hall at Downtown Disney’s West Side at the Disney World.
3. Alegria – Touring Show
It is one of the most popular touring shows of the company. It premiered in 1994 and has been seen by 10 million people in 65 cities around the world. It got its name for the Spanish word for joy. It has been described as an opera-style look of the struggle for power and the refreshing vigor of the young people. It mixes influences derived from the cultures of France, Spain, the Mediterranean and Africa.
4. Ka – Resident Show at MGM Grand in Las Vegas
This is a unique show because it has a straightforward story compared to the abstract visuals of other shows. It tells the story of twins separated during their youth and undergoing self-discovery. It features the pair’s encounters with Ka, the fire that has the dual power to illuminate or destroy. It immerses the crowd by combining automation and multimedia projections with puppetry and pyrotechnics. It debuted in 2005.
5. Dralion – Touring Show
It debuted in 1999, this show features an east meets west theme. The title itself is a combination of a dragon, which represents the east, and a lion, which represents the west. It has elements of both traditional Chinese circus and contemporary Western culture.
6. The Beatles LOVE – Resident Show at The Mirage in Las Vegas
This show features the music of The Beatles that has been interpreted in a circus-based artistic and athletic stage performance. It made its debut in 2006. On June 30, 2006, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were joined by the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison in attending the gala opening at The Mirage. The show does not have any literal or historical representation of the Fab Four. Instead, it relies on characters taken out from the lyrics of the group’s songs, like Sgt. Pepper, Lucy, Eleanor Rigby, Lady Madonna and Mr. Kite.
7. Quidam – Touring Show
The show premiered in 1996 and alludes to the title character that does not have a head, but carries an umbrella and sports a bowler hat. It is supposed to represent the nameless passerby in everyone’s lives. The character is a product of the imagination of Zoe, a bored youngster who feels alone and neglected by her parents. To get away from the monotony of her daily life, she dreams up Quidam and the whimsical world that comes with it.
8. Zumanity – Resident Show at New York New York Hotel in Las Vegas
This is a cabaret-style show that debuted in 2003. It has an adult theme and is restricted to a mature audience only. The feature shows erotic songs, dance numbers and acrobatics. The risky subject matter of human sexuality is a complete departure from the company’s family-oriented and politically correct shows. The new and original concept also hoped to attract a new audience rather than poaching off the crowd of its other shows.
9. Mystere – Resident Show at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
The show made its debut in 1993 and was an immediate hit because of its unique style of circus entertainment. It features circus skills, dance and street theater comedy performed against a backdrop of elaborate sets, opera and world music. Acrobatic acts are the highlights, though it is supplemented by clown acts and transitional scenes to help move the story along.
10. Totem – Touring Show
The show features the evolution of mankind from its initial primordial and amphibian state all the way to desire to take flight. It includes tunes from around the world, including elements from native American, Spanish and Indian music. A variety of scenes has been provided by interactive projection technology.
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