If you ever wondered what the often strange names of Cirque du Soleil shows mean and where they are coming from then you are not alone. Like the shows itself the name of it also has most of the time a very fascinating background story and meaning to it. Names are not chosen by Cirque quickly. Like all other elements of the show creation process, a lot of thoughts and considerations go into it.
- Banana Shpeel
- La Magie Continue
- La Nouba
- Le Cirque Réinventé
- Nouvelle Expérience
- Soleil du Minuit
Alegría is about a Kingdom without a King where everybody wants the power. The Red Man, who was the fool of the king, he thinks that he has the power. All the nostalgic beautiful birds who want the power; then you have the young and energetic and vigilant fast trackers. The flyers high up in the lights, the beautiful nymphs and contortionists all struggle for the power in this leaderless kingdom.
“Alegria” is the Spanish word for Joy, elation and jubilation.
Spelling the name:
Alegría (the “I” is a Latin lower case letter “I” with acute, Unicode: 0x00ED (237), in HTML í or í)
The show Banana Shpeel is a contemporary twist on Vaudeville in Chicago.
“Banana *peel”– from Banana Peel, a symbol of traditional slapstick comedy and the Yiddish word “Shtick”, meaning a comic theme or gimmick, derived from the German word “Stück” (Stueck), which translates to “piece” or “thing”.
Believe is the dark and gothic style magic show of Criss Angel in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil that is not like a traditional magic show that people are used to. It is also not like a traditional Cirque du Soleil show either. It is also not like Criss Angel’s TV show “Mindfreak”.
“Believe” is the secret word that the legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini was giving to his wife at his death-bed before he died in 1926 to enable her to expose charlatans claiming to be able to communicate with the people in the afterlife. Only he and she knew the code word and the self proclaimed mediums did not.
Corteo, which means “cortege” in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth.
Delirium is more like a music concert. Most of the music in the show are remixed versions of traditional and well known tracks of previous Cirque du Soleil shows. Also the acts that are performed to these remixed songs often are similar in look and feel as the act of the original show.
Delirium is a urban tale about an ordinary man (Bill) who experiences the issues of a words who is increasingly getting out of sync, believing to be just a dream. He sees reality from inside his own bubble and how it tries to find the balance between the virtualization of life that isolates people and the quest for love and harmony outside the virtual computer worlds.
Dralion is the fusion of ancient Chinese circus tradition and the avant-garde approach of Cirque du Soleil. The show’s name is drawn from its two main symbols: the dragon, representing the East, and the lion, representing the West.
Dralion derives much of its inspiration from Eastern philosophy with its perpetual quest for harmony between humankind and nature.
KÀ is the story of two imperial twins who lost their parents, discover life and love on their journey to regain back their kingdom from the evil counselor and his son who invented a magic super weapon. They used this magic weapon to assume power of the people who helped them to take control over the kingdom of the twins. It is about the duality of KÀ, the power that has the ability to destroy and to create, war, love and the struggle in life itself.
KÀ stands for “Life Force” in Egyptian mythology and is one of the five parts that make up a human soul. The other four parts are LB = heart, Sheut = Shadow, REN = Name and BA = Personality.
KA is also the word for “Sun” or “King” in Sanskrit (Indian mythology), which is the title of Brahma (Hinduism).
Spelling the name:
KÀ (the “a” is a Latin capital letter “A” with grave, Unicode: 0x00C0 (192), in HTML À or À)
Koozá Is about getting back to the traditions of the Circus. It follows the centuries old structure of a circus performance, including the use of the massive door with curtains where performance appear from and disappear to between each act.
Spelling of the name:
Koozá (the “a” is a Latin lower case letter “a” with acute, Unicode: 0x00E1 (225), in HTML á or á) It can also be spelled in all upper-case letters like KOOZÅ (the “A” is a Latin capital letter “A” with a ring above, Unicode 0x00C5 (197), in HTML Å or Å)
La Magie Continue is French and translates to “The Magic Continues”
The show name La Nouba originates from the French phrase “faire la nouba,” which means to party, to live it up. It is a world where dreams and reality intertwine as the urban and circus worlds meet on stage. Blending acrobatics, dazzling choreography, whimsical characters and live music, La Nouba stimulates our imagination from beginning to end.
Le Cirque Réinventé is French and translates to English “Circus Reinvented“, which was modified to “We Reinvent the Circus”
Spelling of the name:
Le Cirque Réinventé (the first and last “e” in “Reinvente” are the Latin lower case letter “e” with acute, Unicode: 0x00E9 (233), in HTML é or é)
The Beatles “Love” starts with the last live performance of The Beatles on the roof at the Apple Studios in London on January 30, 1969. The Beatles songs itself inspired the acts of the Cirque performances, particularly their lyrics and their historic backgrounds or meanings to the individual members of the band.
The title “Love” is derived from The Beatles single “All you need is Love”, which is also the song for the shows final and closing.
Mystère is French and means “Mystery”
Spelling of the name:
Mystère (the first “e” is a Latin lower case letter “e” with grave, Unicode: 0x00E8 (232), in HTML è or è)
Nouvelle Expérience is French and translates to English “A New Experience”
Spelling of the name:
Nouvelle Expérience (the first “e” in “Experience” is the Latin lower case letter “e” with acute, Unicode: 0x00E9 (233), in HTML é or é)
“O” is inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of water’s pure form. The name “O” also represents the expression “Oh” that humans use when they are struck with awe, excitement, surprise or pleasure.
OVO means “egg” in Portuguese. This timeless symbol of the life cycle and birth of numerous insects represents the underlying thread of the show. Graphically, OVO hides an insect in its name: The two letter “Os” represent the eyes while the letter “V” forms the nose.
Quidam is a nameless by-passer, a solitary person who lingers in the shadows ignored by normal people who rush past him without being noticed. Quidam represents nobody and everybody and the deep inner feelings and fears that are part of all of us. The young girl “Zoe” finds herself in a world of Quidam, full of anger and pain, trying to escape from it.
Quidam is Classical Latin and means “a certain; pl., some” or “anonymous passerby”.
Saltimbanco is about urban life in the city, about the high rise skyscrapers of downtown and the myriad kinds of people who are living, hustle and bustle in a modern day city.
Saltimbanco is derived from the Italian phrase “saltare in banco”, which translates to English “to jump on a bench”.
Soleil du Minuit is French and translates to English “Midnight Sun”. Although it was not exactly midnight when Cirque du Soleil performed their one-time special 20th anniversary show in the streets of Montreal where Cirque has its head quarters; but it was already dark when the show reached its climax. The “Sun” represents the Cirque itself, the Cirque du Soleil or the Circus of the Sun.
Varekai is about the ancient Greek myth of Ikarus, who attempted to fly with wings he made out of wax and reach the sun, which melted the wings and caused Ikarus to fall from the sky as a result of it. The story of Varekai begins at the end of the ancient story with Ikarus falling from the sky into a group of forest people, which have established a stable society within the magic forest that is made of survivors, just like the circus artists themselves.
Varekai means “wherever” in the Romanian language spoken by the Gypsies, the people without a home who wander from place to place in order to survive, which is very much like circus life is.
Wintuk is a whirlwind winter adventure about a boy-Jamie-and his quest to find snow.
Jamie lives in an imaginary city where the arrival of winter has brought intense cold, but no snow! He interacts with a cast of high-energy urban street characters, including acrobats, dancers and talking lampposts. Jamie embarks on a journey to an imaginary North called Wintuk. He is joined by three companions-a female Shaman with magical powers, the girl he has fallen head over heels for and a timid young man called Wimpy, destined to discover his own courage. Jamie’s goal: bring the snow back to where it belongs.
ZAIA is the dream of a young girl who journeys into space on a strange, yet familiar voyage of self-discovery. As she travels, she encounters the beauty of humanity and eventually brings it back with her to share with the inhabitants of earth.
The title of the show, “ZAIA”, comes from a Greek name meaning “life”. It also sounds close to “Gaia”, which is the name of the living and self-aware, spirit of the earth.
The name ZED is the name of the lead character of the show, the white fool called Zed. The inspiration for the show comes from the world of Tao, symbols, elements and also various characters, such as Zed.
Zumanity explores the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil and is the first and only Cirque du Soleil show that is designed for mature audiences only. It is provocative, sexual, esthetic, beautiful, lustful and emotional, touching every aspect of human sexuality that each of us wants to experience, but often does not, due to social codes that do not allow the free expression of your inner feelings and desires.
Zumanity deals with this conflict in a cabaristic way and lets people forget about the codes, at least for the duration of the show itself.
For more information about Cirque du Soleil check out my Cirque du Soleil Primer article.