To experience the Cirque du Soleil is to embark upon a sensory voyage in which one is transported to another world where gravity seems to have no hold and shapes, colours and sound blend into one. Like Alice in Wonderland come to life, this is a successful melange of circus, theatre, art and acrobatics that transcends age in its appeal. Cirque du Soleil is hard to define because there is nothing to compare it to; this unique experience that draws from other art forms sets the yardstick for modern performing arts because it is, in effect, the greatest live show of the modern era.
Founded in Quebec in 1980, the concept has developed gradually, absorbing elements from across the world as it thrived and grew into a global phenomenon. The many individual shows that tour the world’s continents draw inspiration from traditional storytelling, acrobatics, theatre and indeed the realm of fairytales and fantasy. In reviving and modernising circus-like entertainment, Cirque du Soleil proves that there is a need for live performances of this kind. At the permanent show in Las Vegas, the experience draws 9,000 visitors a night – accounting for five per cent of all show-going visitors in this huge tourist town.
One of the reasons for this success – and the Cirque’s international appeal – is that it takes the visitor to another place. The moment you step into the tent a sense of anticipation takes hold and you feel in touch with the child inside. But there is more, for this skilfully constructed and beautifully choreographed show does more than most to engage both on an emotional, sensory level, and on an artistic/intellectual one. The result is that these shows are enjoyed by young and old alike, each no doubt finding their own meaning and preferences in them. You need not be an art lover or a regular at the theatre to appreciate this festival of colour, movement and fantasy – just let yourself be taken away on a flight into the unknown – but if you are it will be one of the most vibrant works of art you have ever seen.