Cirque du Soleil makes bold en­try into China

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China has be­come the most im­por­tant mar­ket in the movie in­dus­try. I think that’s what will hap­pen in the live entertainment in­dus­try.” Daniel La­marre, Cirque du Soleil CEO

A decade af­ter Cirque du Soleil de­buted in China, the Cana­dian entertainment com­pany is re­turn­ing with a much more am­bi­tious plan: to bring a tour­ing show to the coun­try ev­ery year in ad­di­tion to a res­i­dent show to be un­veiled in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, next year.

The first tour­ing show, Kooza, will open in Shang­hai on Oct 1, and will be held six days a week for two months be­fore mov­ing to Bei­jing and five other Chi­nese ci­ties, which are still to be de­cided, ac­cord­ing to Daniel La­marre, CEO of the cir­cus com­pany.

“We will have a very in­tense pres­ence in China, start­ing Oc­to­ber and last­ing for­ever,” said La­marre, adding that an­other two shows have been on the sched­ule to tour in China.

One of them will be Toruk, in­spired from James Cameron’s block­buster Avatar, which earned $200 mil­lion at the Chi­nese box of­fice in 2010.

“It was very im­por­tant to bring a show to China that will be more dis­tinc­tive than any­thing else here, where there are more than 10,000 cir­cuses. We thought it (Kooza) is a very good en­try to in­tro­duce our brand to China, be­cause it is joy­ful,” La­marre said.

Mean­ing “box” in San­skrit, Kooza, first cre­ated in 2007, tells the story of an in­no­cent clown em­bark­ing on a mag­i­cal jour­ney in­side the world of a cir­cus. It is des­ig­nated to pay homage to the tra­di­tional cir­cus by com­bin­ing a va­ri­ety of ac­ro­batic arts in­clud­ing aerial hoops, con­tor­tion­ists and bal­anc­ing on chairs.

Price of the tick­ets will range from 475 to 745 yuan ($70 to $110) per per­son, which La­marre said will be af­ford­able for the coun­try’s bur­geon­ing mid­dle class, the tar­get au­di­ence of the show.

La­marre ex­pects that 200,000 tick­ets will be sold in each city for the Kooza show.

“We are go­ing to see in the live entertainment world here in the next two to five years what you have seen in the movie busi­ness over past five years. China has be­come the most im­por­tant mar­ket in the movie in­dus­try. I think that’s what will hap­pen in the live entertainment in­dus­try,” La­marre said.

Cir­cuses in China have a long and tan­gled his­tory. Called maxi in Chi­nese, mean­ing stunts on a horse, they are be­lieved to date back more than 2,000 years and largely in­volve an­i­mal per­for­mances. Over the past few decades, their pop­u­lar­ity has waned with the rise of mod­ern entertainment like TV and the in­ter­net.

But La­marre is con­fi­dent China’s mid­dle class will like the shows of Cirque du Soleil, which are fa­mous for chore­ograph­ing ac­ro­batic arts con­nected through emo­tional and nar­ra­tive sto­ry­lines, as much as their Western coun­ter­parts, if not more.

“I have been do­ing lots of re­search. There are two schools of thoughts (in China about tra­di­tional arts). One is that peo­ple are look­ing for Western brands, which is go­ing to be very ap­peal­ing for Cirque du Soleil. The other is that they want for­eign brands to re­spect their cul­ture,” he said.

The tour­ing show, he added, will ap­peal to the first school of thought, while for the sec­ond, the res­i­dent show in Hangzhou will be a match, as its con­tent will be a com­bi­na­tion of Chi­nese and Western cul­tures.

At least 50 per­cent of the Hangzhou cast will be Chi­nese. It is also the first time the com­pany will build a per­ma­nent the­ater and host a res­i­dent show out­side North Amer­ica. The de­ci­sion to do so was made af­ter Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate Fo­sun Group ac­quired a 25 per­cent share of the entertainment com­pany in 2015.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Three con­tor­tion­ists from Mon­go­lia per­form in Sin­ga­pore on Wed­nes­day for Cirque du Soleil’s tour­ing show in Asia, which will be in­tro­duced to China on Oct 1 in Shang­hai.

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