The Fire Within
A 27-foot-long bronze clown shoe is the only indication that there is something otherworldly within the concrete walls of the large,
rather nondescript building. Located in Montreal, the building is home to what many feel is the most successful entertainment
company in the world—Cirque du Soleil. The company’s massive headquarters houses practice rooms the size of airplane hangars
where cast members work on their routines. More than 300 seamstresses, engineers, and makeup artists sew, design, and build custom
materials for exotic shows with stage lives of 10 to 12 years. In fact, the production staff often invents materials, such as the special
waterproof makeup required for the production of O, a show performed mostly in a 1.5 million-gallon pool of water that was also
specially designed and engineered by Cirque employees. Another key in-house resource is Cirque’s team of 32 talent scouts and
casting staff that recruits and cultivates performers from all over the world. The department maintains a database of 20,000 names, any
of whom could be called at any time to join the members of Cirque’s cast, who number 2,700 and speak 27 languages.
Shows with exotic names like Mystère, La Nouba, O, Dralion, Varekai, and Zumanity communicate through style and tone
that they are intended to do more than just amuse. Cirque designs productions with distinct personalities that are meant to evoke awe,
wonder, inspiration, and reflection. As one cast member put it, “The goal of a Cirque performer is not just to perform a quadruple
somersault, but to treat it as some manifestation of a spiritual, inner life. Like in dance, the goal is . . . to have a language, a
conversation, with the audience.