Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian entertainment company, self-described as a "dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment." Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, (CHANGE SLIDE) and located in the inner-city area of Saint-Michel, it was founded in Gaspé, in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix.
Initially named Les Échassiers, (CHANGE SLIDE) they toured Quebec in 1980 as a performing troupe and encountered financial hardship. Their financial troubles were relieved by a grant from their government as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. (CHANGE SLIDE)
“Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil” was a success, 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 that it remains to be today.
Cirque du Soleil traveled throughout Quebec in 1984, appearing in ten cities and playing to audiences of 800 at each performance. The following year, the troupe took its first steps outside its home province and began performing in neighboring Ontario. The audience’s feedback was so positive that it gave Cirque du Soleil even more reason to begin expanding. By 1986, the seating capacity of Cirque du Soleil’s big top tent had been expanded to 1,500, and Cirque du Soleil began to receive national and...