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Cirque du Soleil: Interview with Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO

Founded in 1984 in Baie-Saint-Paul by two former street artists, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier, Cirque du Soleil is now a multinational company with operations on all continents. Since 2015, TPG Capital has majority ownership of the company, while the Chinese company Fosum Capital Group and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec have minority ownership. However, the company’s mission remains the same: to appeal to people’s imagination and stimulate their senses and emotions. Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO, tells us about it.

How do you explain the worldwide success of Cirque du Soleil?

To this day, Cirque du Soleil offers a one-of-a-kind show. From the very beginning, its creators had the good sense not to include any spoken language in the shows, enabling the company to gain universal recognition. Over the years, we have developed a unique global network of partners and sponsors who have contributed to making Cirque du Soleil into the international brand it is today. What’s amazing is that it was created from scratch by Quebecers.

How would you describe a Cirque du Soleil performance?

It’s hard to say! If you were to ask people, they would begin by saying it’s not a traditional circus performance, nor is it theatre. It’s not just dance, music or clown shows. The explanation would be a long one, because this circus is different from anything else that exists in terms of its form and artistic content. It is its own category.

 

“Our creators keep working in the same way, without any internal interference.”

When you become a large-scale entertainment company such as Cirque du Soleil, how do you preserve your creativity?

It’s our biggest challenge and we are doing a number of things to preserve it. First, our human resources department allocates many resources to seeking out the best talent in the world. Next, we are heavily investing in research and development of new acrobatic equipment technologies and inventions to enhance artists’ performances. In fact, we own a lab dedicated to such research. Finally, through our global network, we have an intelligence department that keeps an eye on what’s new, not only in the entertainment industry, but also in fashion, architecture, music and film. That way, we ensure that our creators have access to the best artistic content in the world to stay ahead of the curve.

What do spectators expect at a Cirque du Soleil show?

They expect to be wowed and surprised and to watch a performance with unparalleled quality. For our part, we want to continuously surprise and move them, to make them laugh and experience emotions.

How would you describe a Cirque du Soleil performance?

It’s hard to say! If you were to ask people, they would begin by saying it’s not a traditional circus performance, nor is it theatre. It’s not just dance, music or clown shows. The explanation would be a long one, because this circus is different from anything else that exists in terms of its form and artistic content. It is its own category. Since 2015, foreign investment funds have majority ownership of the company.

Does Cirque du Soleil remain as Québécois as before?

Yes, it does. The management team, myself included, has not changed its way of doing things. The only difference is that we now have greater financial resources and access to a worldwide network of contacts. With the recent acquisition of Blue Man Group, we have a number of ongoing projects, but our creators keep working in the same way, without any external interference.

What are your upcoming projects?

Right now, we first have a 14-month tour in Shanghai with Kooza. We will also soon be opening a permanent show in Hangzhou. The Chinese breakthrough is very important to us. On December 20th, we will also be presenting the world premiere of Crystal, our show on ice, at Montréal’s Centre Bell and shortly before that, on November 16, the NFL Experience will take place in Times Square in New York. Thanks to new technologies, NFL fans will experience a complete immersion. It’s a massive project. With the new owners, Cirque du Soleil’s expansion is skyrocketing.

 

Text: Diane Stehle

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