Cirque du Soleil’s iconic big top, home for their high-flying, circus-inspired acrobatic performances, was raised on Stampede Park on August 19, marking the first return of the company to Calgary since 2019.
The rising of the big top also represented the first time the Cirque du Soleil show KOOZA has returned to Calgary in a decade.
Over the next week, the Stampede grounds will be transformed into a theatre the equal of any of the company’s other shows said Julie Desmarais, senior publicist for the show.
“This is a village on wheels, so you’re you’re coming into our home. We’re in Calgary, but the big top is our home, so we can’t wait to welcome everybody,” said Desmarais.
By the time their first performance happens on August 25, hundreds of workers—80 from Cirque du Soleil’s travelling team and 60 hired locals—will have completed the creation of the entire big top complex.
“Our technical crew and our site crew will be doing a lot of validations and technical inspections before the artists actually go on stage. Once they arrive, the artists will have two or three days of trainings on stage,” said Desmarais.
Among those validations will be testing for lighting and sound, said Desmarais.
“All the cities are never the same. That big top is placed in one position, but there might be some elements that needs some tweaks for the artists to be ready,” she said.
Jean-Francois Raymond, site operation director for KOOZA, said that the seven day process to prepare for the show is a lot of work, and much of it is done by hand.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but well organized, well planned, and everything can happen,” Raymond said.
More than 70 trucks have been used to transport the 2,000 tons of big top and the accompanying tents to Calgary.
By the time first patrons attend the event, the big top will have been raised to 19 metres high, held up by 25 metre pillars.
KOOZA performances last 100 minutes, with a 25 minute intermission in between two, 50-minute halves. The show runs from Aug. 25 to Oct. 8, with tickets on sale at www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza.
Big top home to 2,500 audience members
The big top will be home to up to 2,500 visitors for each performance, which Desmarais said was a thrill given that a decade has passed since they last brought KOOZA to Calgary.
“It’s so exciting. Every time we come here with a show of Cirque du Soleil, the audiences are always very supportive are a super authentic. It’s great to play here,” she said.
“It’s such a very privileged moment for us to be back in Calgary, with KOOZA.”
Among the circus inspired acts at the show are silk acrobatics, the double high wire, and wheel of death.
“We have 52 artists coming from 25 different nationalities… it’s all about acrobatics, it’s about clowning, it’s going back to Cirque du Soleil origins, but it’s also paying homage to traditional circus,” said Desmarais.
“You’ll have the high wire with a Cirque du Soleil twist. But also acts that you’ve never seen in other big tops before.”
Return of Cirque du Soleil big for Calgary
Emma Stevens, Director of Communications and External Relations for CMLC, said that the return of the show was an important milestone for the city’s Culture and Entertainment District (C+E).
“It’s certainly part of the plan to have international events. Sometimes it’s concerts and hockey games, sometimes it’s monster trucks, and sometimes it’s critically acclaimed circuses under the big top.”
“All of those events are at home in the C+E, and it’s certainly very exciting.”
She said that KOOZA speaks to the calibre of entertainment that Calgary can attract, something that was echoed by Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott.
“It’s amazingly important because it’s not only a connection across the country—some of members actually here flew out from Montreal just to be here to set up these tents—but also, because Calgary is full right now,” he said.
“We are full of events. We are full of entertainment, and people in this city have something to do where they can come out and they can enjoy these special events together. So, this is just adding to that list of another way that Calgary’s summer is getting even better.”
He said that the return of Cirque du Soleil to the city after the Covid-19 pandemic sends a message to potential visitors to the C+E.
“It’s about showing Calgarians that we’re a destination beyond just the things that we’re used to,” Walcott said.
“We’re bringing different events in from around the world, because people are starting to see—we are reminding them—what we’ve been, and of course allowing people to take advantage in this part of our story. Because this is what Calgary really is doing.”