Up until now, circus shows were relying on their menageries to bring in spectators.
Bear trainers from the Middle Ages, balancing acts on horses in the 18th century, taming and caging exotic beasts in the early 1900’s. The audience was enthralled at the idea of domesticating animals, especially the wildest ones.
During the second half of the 20th century, circus shows would give more value to the human performances. Even if circuses would still be a place where the impossible could be done, the art form would focus more on physical prowess rather than showcasing trained animals. Outrage from the audiences and from animal rights activists would slowly lead to the removal of these animal-centric acts from the Big Top all over the world.
A Firm Decision from Cirque
Back in the 90’s, Cirque du Soleil vowed to have every animal interpreted by human artists, however big that animal would be.
In Alegría, launched in 1994, artists take on the roles of birds. In KÀ, they personify crabs and turtles. In Cirque du Soleil ECHO, our latest creation, multiple characters are half-human and half-animal, adorned with masks representing a bull, an elephant, and a seal, amongst many more. This is reminiscent of the artists on JOYÀ performing as the lizard, the lemur, the peacock, or the rabbit.
These costumes, makeups and accessories were all designed and hand-made in the International Head Quarters’ workshops in Montreal. The artisans work their creative muscles tirelessly to find ingenious ways to bring these creatures to life, before they take the stage in front of millions of spectators. That’s where the bugs from OVO and the mechanical jaguar from LUZIA, who have travelled from continent to continent for years, come from.
More than a simple circus show, Cirque’s experiences are where fantastic and legendary creatures come to life. Animals like the Dralions or the extraterrestrial fauna of the planet Pandora, from the universe of Avatar, with larger-than-life puppets, blue-skinned Na’vis costumes and the imposing Toruk flying above the crowd.
Even at the very beginning, Cirque du Soleil has always steered clear from the idea of domesticating animals. Quite the contrary actually, each and every original creation is tinted by a philosophy of friendliness and collaboration with natural life. This wonderful symbiosis with our home planet and all its inhabitants deserves a starring role in productions like ECHO and LUZIA.