Cirque du Soleil (English: "Circus of the Sun"), is a Canadian entertainment company, self-described as a "dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment." Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and located in the inner-city area of Saint-Michel, it was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier.
Initially named Les Échassiers, they toured Quebec in 1980 as a performing troupe and encountered financial hardship that was relieved by a government grant in 1983 as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil was a success in 1984, and after securing a second year of funding, Laliberté hired Guy Caron from the National Circus School to re-create it as a "proper circus". Its theatrical, character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals helped define Cirque du Soleil as the contemporary circus ("nouveau cirque") that it remains today.
Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world, with its own central theme and storyline. They draw the audience into the performance through continuous live music, with performers rather than stagehands changing the props. After financial successes and failures in the late 1980s, Nouvelle Expérience was created – with the direction of Franco Dragone – which not only made Cirque profitable by 1990, but allowed it to create new shows.
Cirque expanded rapidly through the 1990s and 2000s, going from one show to 19 shows in over 271 cities on every continent except Africa (until March 2011, as their arena show Saltimbanco will tour South Africa) and Antarctica. The shows employ approximately 4,000 people from over 40 countries and generate an estimated annual revenue exceeding US$810 million. The multiple permanent Las Vegas shows alone play to more than 9,000 people a night, 5% of the city's visitors, adding to the 90 million people who have experienced Cirque worldwide. In 2000, Laliberté bought out Gauthier, and with 95% ownership, has continued to expand the brand. In 2008, Laliberté split 20% of his share equally between two investment groups Istithmar World and Nakheel of Dubai, in order to further finance the company's goals. In partnership with these two groups, Cirque plans to build a residency show in the United Arab Emirates by 2012. Several more shows are in development around the world, along with a television deal, women's clothing line and the possible venture into other mediums such as spas, restaurants and nightclubs. Cirque also produces a small number of private and corporate events each year (past clients have been the royal family of Dubai and the 2007 Super Bowl).
Cirque's creations have received numerous prizes and distinctions, including a Bambi Award in 1997, a Rose d'Or in 1989, Drama Desk Awards in 1991 and 1998, three Gemini Awards, four Primetime Emmy Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In September 2003, Cirque du Soleil unveiled Zumanity. This new production was a resident cabaret-style show at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It is the first "adult-themed" Cirque du Soleil show, billed as "The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil" or "Another side of Cirque du Soleil". Created by René Richard Cyr and Dominic Champagne, Zumanity is a departure from the standard Cirque format. Intended to be for mature adult audiences only, this show is centered around erotic song, dance, and acrobatics.
The inspiration to create Zumanity came from multiple sources. Laliberté had been offered the chance to create two new shows in Las Vegas, and wanted something completely new and original rather than multiple similar shows that would cannibalize off of each other's sales and audiences. Another reason was that the New York-New York Hotel and Casino wanted to make their entertainment appear more "trendy". The hotel liked the concept of a more adult Cirque du Soleil performance.
Laliberté admits that the biggest reason to produce this show was the chance to create something with riskier subject matter. He was interested in the idea of creating a show that explored human sexuality, something that was at complete odds from the other more family-oriented Cirque shows. "Our previous shows have all been family-oriented and politically correct, which is great," Laliberté said, "But we're human beings, we won't hide it. We're a bunch of happy campers. We like to live new experiences. Zumanity deals with some of those experiences."
Felix Cane (Miss Pole Dance World 2009, 2010 and Miss Pole Dance Australia 2006 until 2009, 2011) performs her pole dancing routine at Cirque Du Soleil's Zumanity at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Cirque Du Soleil asked Felix Cane to join their show after they saw her pole dancing performances at competitions.
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