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How Cirque du Soleil Works


"Cirque Memory"
The Nymphs
The Nymphs
Photo courtesy Al Seib

In the past, managing and coordinating the creative aspects, casts, sets, costumes, show facilities and touring arms of Cirque du Soleil was extremely difficult. Cirque's growing staff and show network added to this strain. For example, in 1984, Cirque had 73 employees and one Grand Chapiteau. Today, Cirque has nine shows with 2,700 employees representing 40 nationalities and speaking 25 different languages.

To aid the management of these various components, Cirque du Soleil built an International Headquarters and deployed "Cirque Memory", an online database. The construction of the headquarters and the institution of Cirque Memory have contributed to the evolution of Cirque as a structured yet creative organization. The facilities at the international headquarters create a central place where the team trains performers, designs sets and makes costumes.

Developed as a way to organize and manage Cirque's shows, Cirque Memory tracks and organizes the artists and staff as well as their needs. Working with outside IT consultants and their own IT department, Cirque developed and implemented a global database that is accessible online in five different languages. Built using only Microsoft Windows 2000, Internet Information Server 5.0 and SQL Server 2000, Cirque Memory has six applications: Casting, Make-up, Costume Memory, Medi-Cirque, Kin-Cirque and Act Management.

This system allows Cirque to track the 20,000 performers in their casting directory. The database also includes photos and instructions on makeup application for each character as well as 5,000 costume designs and 4,000 alternation notes. Staff and Cirque doctors can track and monitor performers' health and rehabilitation through 24,000 Medi-Cirque files. If necessary, directors can use Cirque Memory to find replacements whose height and weight match those of the injured performer, thereby eliminating costly prop and costume redesign. This data management ensures that the quality of each show is consistent throughout the course of its run and helps to ensure that cast, costume and set replacements or changes can occur as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Cirque de Soleil has come a long way from a circus started by street performers in Montreal. For 20 years they have provided shows of such breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring talent that Cirque is bound to continue to redefine live entertainment and sell out venues around the world.

To learn more about Alegria and Cirque du Soleil, check out the links on the next page.