Simon Brault, published in The Gazette, January 27 2013
The Cirque du Soleil’s recent announcement that it is eliminating 400 jobs, and its closing of a fifth show over the past year, caused quite a stir in the news media and in Montreal’s cultural sector — and for good reason.
The consequences of these decisions for those who will lose their jobs are indeed all the more painful as employment in the cultural industry in the greater metropolitan area has been shrinking over the past two years, a shrinkage that the Foundation of Greater Montreal estimates has been equal to 10,000 jobs.
The shock waves were further magnified by virtue of the Cirque’s long history, which has been marked by exceptional successes and accomplishments — ones that we have all watched with admiration and perhaps, at times, a little bit of envy. The company now wants to reduce its spending in response to a sluggish economy.
That being said, there is nothing surprising or exceptional about a global corporation deciding to readjust its operations. What is exceptional is that Montreal is home to a cultural organization with billion-dollar annual revenues that employs some 5,000 people around the world. It is also the only company on the planet that presents that many shows simultaneously. This organization is not, despite these recent job cuts, in danger. The Cirque’s overall financial situation remains solid. And despite having experienced a net loss this year, its ticket sales have hit record highs.
Since its creation in 1984, the Cirque du Soleil has charted new territory and pushed the boundaries of live performance. The company brings together more than 100 trades that collaborate and create at the cutting edge of their respective specialties. The Cirque is an enormous research-and-development laboratory that constantly innovates at an artistic, technological, logistical and technical level.
A great number of our directors, playwrights, set and costume designers, lighting designers, musicians and production specialists work to create the Cirque’s shows around the world and ensure that they all run smoothly. These contracts then enable some of these artists to reinvest their earnings into their own creative projects.
Montreal’s cultural sector provides the talent that fuels the Cirque’s growth and international reputation, and in turn it consistently receives tangible, diversified benefits. This is equally true for training institutions such as the National Circus School, the National Theatre School of Canada and many university faculties.
We’ve also seen a proliferation of small creative and service enterprises taking root to support the ambitions and needs of the Cirque, which continues to shine at home and abroad.
The dark clouds will pass. The Cirque du Soleil certainly has the intelligence to learn, readjust and reinvent itself. We have a collective interest in its success in these endeavours, because the creation-based cultural metropolis that Montreal has become cannot do without the Cirque’s direct contributions and global impact.
« Opinion: Cirque continues to shine on Montreal »
Simon Brault, The Gazette, Januray 27 2013