Founded in 1980 by Guy Laliberte and Daniel Gauthier, “Les Echassiers” incorporated street-entertainment influence into the dramatic circus. Since starting with a single show, Cirque du Soleil now has numerous touring shows, and is one of the most successful performance troupes in live entertainment. The shows include “Kooza,” “Ovo,” “Dralion,” and “Varekai,” and several permanent residency shows, including “Lystere,” “La Nouba,” “Ka,” and “Viva Elvis.” Each show has unique cultural style and music, ranging from the dark and heavy “Alegria” to the peace-inspiring “Saltimbanco,” which was also the first show to play outside North America. Major upcoming plans for the circus include a permanent residency at “The Atlantis,” at the Palm Resort in Dubai in 2012.

The contemporary Quebec-based circus had anything but an easy start, despite being one of the most world-renowned circuses in the world today. Though their first tour in 1984, “Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil,” met with success, following performances outside of Canada had a lukewarm reception and drove the company into debt. If it hadn’t been for government grants, the Desjardins Group covering bad checks, and financier Daniel Lamarre representing the company for free, Cirque du Soleil would have succumbed to bankruptcy.