Let's start off slow with a circus that — while maybe not a three-ring, step-right-up kind of a deal — is still a bit more on the traditional side. But the famous Cirque du Soleil really did start off as an unconventional group of theatre performers who busked in small town Quebec as jugglers, stilt walkers, dancers and fire-breathers [source: Cirque du Soleil]. In 1984, the little group took a tour of the province in honor Canada's discovery, and became a hit around Quebec.
Since then, Cirque du Soleil has become a phenomenon, albeit not as a traditional circus. Instead, the shows — which both tour and have a permanent home in Las Vegas — are widely known for their aerial acts and their amazing costumes. The shows themselves range from Michael Jackson tributes to fantastic imaginings of a carnival-like funeral (fun!). They might feel more like the theatre or a concert, depending on what you see. But they do feature live music, clowning, acrobatics and illusions that make it the most successful "offbeat" circus around.