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When my English professor told the class that she is assigning us a documented research paper on any career of our choice, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. The assignment seemed mundane and bland. Simply put, I wasn’t interested in the slightest. Weeks passed by and I didn’t bother to look up any career. I kept asking myself, “Why do we have to write five pages about a career!? We’re going to be enslaved by them in a few short years regardless!” As the due date drew nearer and nearer, I became desperate. I really needed to start my research paper, but on what!? I wasn’t interested in ironworkers and lobster divers. I’ll sleep through the entire project and fail miserably. Than suddenly, if not miraculously, I saw a Cirque Du Soleil advertisement flashing at me from atop a tourist bus downtown. With only a few days left until the due date, I blindly journeyed into the circus world, a world that would capture my imagination and frame it forever into my conscience. Why work in the circus? There isn’t anything noble or classy in being a clown, right? Well, not if you work in the Cirque. Most of the performers are “people with no education, without any kind of background…people who are living and playing in the streets (“Want to work for the Cirque?”).” Humble words used to describe an institution that rakes in $620 million in annual profits. To put it in perspective – Cirque Du Soleil is worth more than some third world countries. The cirque’s breakthrough isn’t the result of an Ivy League Education. It’s attributable to a passion for the art of theatre. The performers don’t look to their careers as contracted jobs; they consider them to be lifestyles. Men, women, fire breather or dancers, they’re all enamored with creativity. Yes, they work in a circus, they don’t hold law degrees or know the latest debate in Physics, but one thing they do possess is love for what they do. Again, why would anyone want to work in the circus? In the word of the performers themselves, “…because you can be free (Where Magic is Pure…).”
Chaudhry 2 So who can join this ethereal dreamland? Not everyone can be a clown vis-à-vis not everyone can be part of the Cirque Du Soleil. “Creativity and originality is a must (The man behind the magic).” stresses Guy Liberté, the founder of the Cirque. In fact, that is the only criteria. You must be creative and original, however, due to legal requirements the minimum age to work in any position is 18. Liberté disagrees, “passion for the arts does not discriminate by age so why does the law? (The Man Behind the Magic).” To challenge the legal limits Liberté has opened a summer camp in the Cirque. He hopes that one day the camp will be a nesting ground for fresh creative thinking. For all the thinking required, ironically, education isn’t a must. However that doesn’t mean any illiterate cavemen can join the cirque. Some schooling is preferred and a fluency in the language of the respective country where the Cirque operates. For example working in the birthplace of Cirque Du Soleil – Quebec, one must be fluent in French. What if one makes all these requirements? What if he runs home and tells his parents that he wants to work in the Cirque? Most parents would frown. What prestige comes from working with freaks and clowns? Surprisingly it appears that there is plenty of prestige. The wages offered in the Cirque aren’t public – Quebec’s legislature doesn’t require an art promoting organization to open it’s books, and since all checks are delivered straight from Quebec all international transactions are also private. Few estimate that the best of the best of the Cirque could be making a six digit annual salary. If the pay isn’t attractive enough wait till you hear this. Due to the risky escapades performed on stage, all employees are insured for top of the quality medical care. Lawyer turned clown says that it “Beats working nine to five in some office (Where Magic and Reality Meet).” Thomas Piaget left his lucrative law career to pursue a career in the circus. This further amplifies the mass appeal that the Cirque possesses and the diverse demographic that work in it.
Chaudhry 3 Like anything good, there is a bad side to it. The prestige comes with danger. Dangerous and risky tricks performed on stage have to be reviewed by safety regulators before performance. Fire breathers are in a much higher disadvantage because they sign up at their own risk. Since the Cirque is dance oriented and focuses more on visual stimuli than fire techniques, fire breathers and fire dancers aren’t covered by the Cirque’s medical insurance. These fiery performers perform on their own risk. There hasn’t been an accident regarding the Cirque yet but the Cirque refuses to cover the health costs. “It’s unfair and inhumane what they’re doing (Dynamics of Art).” confesses an exemployee who gave up fire breathing after growing weary of the fears of an accident. Its thought provoking on why an organization will only give quality medical care to select employees, maybe a norm in Canada but in the States, its frowned upon. Wouldn’t it be wiser to offer medical coverage to your entire workforce? Liberté exerts “all our performances go through fierce safety regulations and if anything were to happen to a performer that wasn’t covered by the insurance agreements than I myself will pay for their treatment. They’re all family and you look out for family (The Man Behind The Magic).” If Mr. Liberté is ready to dig into his own pockets why on earth doesn’t he just expand the coverage? Unfortunately no one has ever asked him that question. To his defense, there is a sense of companionship and unity among the Cirque employees, if one was to be endangered the rest would do their best keep them safe from harm. Sounds like a fairy tale, we all know one fact about fairy tales. They’re not real, but the unity among the Cirque is more than real. Yes the circus can be a dangerous and often a life threatening experience but the Cirque is “more a family than an organization (Dynamics of Art).” One can understand why some employees might disagree with the medical policy but it is also evident that the brotherly bond within the Cirque dispels many fears and keeps a multi million organization on its toes, but how did it all begin?
Chaudhry 4 The 1984 Olympic games were accompanied with a 10-week Olympic Arts Festival. A myriad of countries participated with an artistic piece. The Americans rendered a stage drama of the Indian epic “Mahabharata” the Swedes gave an eccentric theatre piece and all sorts of other acts by various countries. It was festival of art and it was going to be the first day the sun shone on the circus. Canada’s Cirque Du Soleil was selected to be the opening act. “A circus is the least intimidating form of theatre and also requires the least amount of effort (A Festival)”, raved Mr. Fitzpatrick: the festival director. “Not much was expected” from the Cirque, it was to be the “opening act to the centerpiece, the Mahabharata (A Festival).” Little did the festival organizers know, the Cirque was going to explode. The mind-bending visuals garnered critical acclaim for the Cirque. An art critic present had this to say after the performance “ I define the peak of ambition and art with Le Cirque (L’art du Monde).” Right then and there a phenomenon was born. Now the Cirque operates in 14 countries and has more than 400,000 employees worldwide. People from all over the globe have been attracted to the Cirque as an outlet for the artistic creativity. “The cirque has been of the fastest growing organization of any kind for the past decade (U.N. Cultural Report).” The appeal is massive. In recent times the Cirque has become a cultural titan, tourists visit from all over the world to see the spectacular shows that are hosted in Las Vegas. One can only stand in awe and think about how Guy Liberté began. He was a penniless street performer but his passion for art landed him among the stars. Literally. Liberté along with a handful of other millionaires recently boarded the first commercial tour of outer space becoming “the first Canadian space tourist (The Man Behind the Magic). Imagine that, going from a petty street performer to flying amongst the stars. It is inspiring as it is poetic. It feels like this paper has also led me across a journey, taking me out from my world of logic and math to a world of wonders.
Chaudhry 5 I started this research paper with many doubts in my head, I was almost certain I wasn’t going to enjoy looking up all this information. I was wrong. I loved writing this paper. Before this assignment I looked to the Cirque as any other artsy over-rated over-priced con but now I’m fascinated by it. So much so that I agree that it’s “a monument of human achievement and artistic vision (U.N. Cultural Report).” I understand now, what the appeal is. People come and pay to see the Cirque perform so they can be part of the bigger narrative. It’s a narrative stringing together ambitious dreams with daring tactics. An account of how the Circus can be about “more than just clowns or tricks but it can be a passion (Where Magic & Reality Meet)”. The love for this art is innate it comes from somewhere deep within. The amount of creativity is mind bending and at the very least inspiring. If I had that understanding of art and a passion to pursue it as so many Cirque performers do I would sign up first thing tomorrow morning! I would get to travel the world, perform amazing stunts, perform in front of thousands and know that people came from all over the world to see me do I was born to do. What can be better than that? “Its an everlasting euphoria (The Man Behind The Magic)” Liberté admits. Maybe the health coverage should be extended but maybe our mind should also extend and understand that the Cirque members would support each other in the time of need. Must one really stress the importance of free medical care if ones peers are ready to help? These performers live in a world of their own, a world in which the laws of physics don’t matter and impossibility is just a matter of semantics. In English Cirque Du Soleil translates to the Circus of the Sun. A fitting name, because the Sun has been the symbol of almost all human curiosity and achievement. As long as there is a passion for the arts in this world, the sun will never set on the circus.
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