Cirque du Soleil: Behind the Scenes

On our third (and last) day in wintery Montreal, which we were visiting for the Michael Jackson world premiere. we were in for quite a treat. We were going behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil at their world-wide headquarters! Cirque performers are encouraged to be creative in all aspects of their lives. The hallways are bursting with paintings and sculptures that employees make on their own time, and visiting all of the workshops was fascinating. Come on — I’ll take you on a tour. You’ve never seen Cirque du Soleil like this! We got to see what makes them tick.

First stop: the silkscreen studio, where they make all the costumes themselves. They don’t have a lot of storage space, so they’re constantly in production. As you can imagine, due to all the gravity-defying acrobatics that Cirque du Soleil is famous for, the performers can wear through their costumes pretty quickly.

Montreal and Las Vegas are a continent away, but there’s a strong bond between the two cities. (CEO Daniel Lamarre told me on the red carpet at the premiere that Cirque du Soleil considers Vegas “home.”) The Strip currently boasts seven Cirque shows within two miles — for the month of December, Michael Jackson’s The Immortal will make eight! (See them all here.) Here, the costume closet made me feel right at home, packed with things for Beatles Love and Mystere, two of my favorite shows.

Designers make each costume on a head mold, so it fits the performer perfectly. (Much of the process is now digitized, but they walked us through the whole process of making the molds. I think I would be claustrophobic!)

At least one of these heads belongs to a Vegas performer, because one of the executives in town with us gasped when she saw it!

Shoes are made by hand — or by modifying wrestlers’ shoes, which the Cirque du Soleil performers have deemed the best for gripping the floor, or whatever apparatus they might be working on.

All Cirque du Soleil performers must apply their own makeup! So they do not graduate from headquarters without hours of lessons. I think this girl has gotten pretty good!

Last stop: the studios!! The performers spend hours a day trying new stunts and working with their apparatus.

These guys were experimenting with trampolines and running vertically up this wall.

Our final, final stop was the “secret” studios, where new shows are created. No photos allowed! So you’ll have to start checking performance calendars for when the next Cirque du Soleil show is coming to you!

We were in Montreal for the premiere of Michael Jackson’s The Immortal. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, you must watch it right now!

Click here.


Heading to the area? On my first visit to Montreal, I also spent time in gorgeous historic Quebec. There is so much to do and see — I recommend checking out the city’s top travel agencies to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Bon voyage!

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. Abby, this is really interesting! I had no idea how much they do by themselves. I can’t believe the performers do their own makeup! They are all really talented. Thanks for showing us the world of CDS behind the scenes. Really cool. 🙂

  2. These people are creative in every single aspect of their lives! It was inspiring!

  3. Those mannequin heads really creep me out… other than that, looks like a fun behind the scenes visit haha

  4. I am crazy obsessed with Cirque! Visiting the HQ would really be a dream come true for me. Have you ever read the book “Cirque du Soleil: The Spark – Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives Within Us All?” That’s the closest I’ve ever come to being behind the scenes, and this is a close second. You are a very lucky person.

  5. Hogga, imagine if you KNEW one of the people associated with the head!

    JoAnna — I didn’t know you were such a fan! I’ll have to read the book. My best friend is like you, and we’ve done a lot of Cirqu-ing together. I am a show nut in trouble, so am of course obsessed with Cirque. 🙂

  6. You’re right, I’ve never seen Cirque du Soleil like this. This is serious business and I can tell from your photos that these people are really good at what they do.

  7. They were amazing to watch! And hard-working… They limit tours so that they don’t get interrupted that often. I could have watched them work on acts in the gym for hours.

  8. This is amazing! I had no idea how much went into their productions.

  9. It was wild, all of that under one roof. And there are even dorm-type apartments across the street for performers to stay during their training. It was awesome.

  10. Serious work indeed, no wonder they are so good at what they do

  11. This looks so interesting! It must be so much work! How many people work there?

  12. As a huge Cirque fan, I could not be more jealous of your BTS peek!

  13. What an exceptional opportunity to see Cirque behind the scenes. Fascinating stuff!

  14. It was a huge building, Sebastian! I have no idea. Way bigger than my company. 😉 Kristin and Cathy, you would have loved it!

  15. Fantastic tour Abby! Do they do the stage construction for permanent shows in Montreal too? Or is that done in the location of the show?

  16. How incredible that they do their own costumes and make-up – Cirque performers are true artists.

  17. We did not see any stage construction!! So my guess is that the artists themselves are the only parts of the show to “graduate” from Montreal headquarters.

    Emily, they are artistic through and through.

  18. How amazing! I LOVE Cirque shows and have heard that the costumes are so involved and amazing…we saw O in Vegas and those were the most amazing I’ve ever seen. It would be such a great experience to go “behind the scenes” and see all of this!

  19. It was so cool. I can’t believe how these people get paid to create, in a bona fide artistic environment!!

  20. That is so cool!! I love behind the scenes stuff… I love that the performers do their own makeup. The head molds are kind of creepy, but I love all the attention to minute detail that Cirque does!

  21. I thought it was awesome, too!! It was crazy.

  22. Cirque de Soleil is so wonderful. Must be very special to see them at their home stage. Rather envious of your peek behind the scenes as well 🙂

  23. Hi Abby this is really cool site and i will bookmark this site so we are keeping in tuch 🙂

  24. Thank you, Marko! I liked yours, too. So happy we connected — I love Stumble!!

  25. I really love Cirque du Soleil. What is not to love? But had no idea there were 8 of them in Las Vegas at once!! Thanks for the backstage tour.

  26. Wonderful, I love Cirque du Soleil, their performers are amazing, beautiful experience you had, unfortunately I only saw them on TV 🙂

  27. Wow, pretty impressive! I never had the chance to visit the circus before, and it certainly seems interesting!

  28. You know they’re good if they have TV specials! There was one I used to watch over and over again.

  29. Ahh, this is awesome! You are so lucky!

  30. That is so cool! It’s interesting that they have to do their own makeup. I guess it saves on costs. Interesting fact: I’ve never seen a Cirque show! I’ll put it on the bucket list. O is the one I want to see. 🙂

  31. Oh my word, this is so fascinating! I really don’t know anything about Cirque du Soleil (except that the shows are awesome, lol), so this was a cool “behind the scenes” glimpse.

  32. I’ve even seen some of the TV specials and still learned a lot! It’s a wonder that a company exists today like this, full of creators…

  33. Wow! I always forget what it takes to put on one show. A behind the scenes look seems quite the experience for you. I’ll be sure to remind my friends next month about all the work it takes when we see the MJ’s The Immortal Cirque du Soleil show in Seattle.

  34. It would be a bit creepy to see my head on some shelf to be honest. I love looking at behind the scenes of productions like this. How epic!

  35. I love Cirque du Soleil! I’d see every type of show if I could. We saw one in Philly and the Beatles one in Vegas. Their clowns are kind of creepy, but I kind of like that odd, moody feeling to their shows.

  36. Sherry, I’m a huge show junkie, so it WAS epic!

    Erica, my friend saw a head from someone she knows!

    Don, I also like the air of mystery of Cirque shows!

  37. Amazing amount of work that goes into the shows. What commitment! Great inside! I am an admirer of Cirque du Soleil for ages!

  38. Me, too! I saw my first one more than ten years ago!

  39. So cool!
    When I was in Quebec city a few weeks ago with Anna Jura we saw a live show under some street overpasses outdoors of all of the students performing, it was so cool! 🙂

  40. I just met a girl from Montreal who is working at a circus in Europe doing the German wheel, it is amazing how much work goes into the show.

  41. So cool, both! I love seeing amazing street acts. Can’t imagine what a German wheel is wow.

  42. This looks so awesome! You are so lucky. I really want to see a cirque du soleil show someday. Next time I’m in Vegas?

  43. Super cool! I worked in theatre for a long time and the magic behind the scenes is my favorite part!

  44. Rease, you have to come back soon — a show is in order!

    That’s so cool, Jade!

  45. That is just about the coolest thing! The Cirque du Soleil troops work so hard. I can’t imagine how many hours they put in each day training, applying their make up and fixing their costumes. It’s worth it though, they put on the most amazing shows!

  46. Thank you!! As a major show dork, I was blown away. YES, their shows are amazing!!

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