Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Run away with the Cirque

'The essence of Quidam is real human emotions. It touches people'

  • Print

When Cirque du soleil writer-director Franco Dragone set out to create a show called Quidam in the mid-1990s, his initial inspiration came from black-and-white photographs by Robert Doisneau.

The Frenchman Doisneau is most famous for his 1950 image of two young lovers kissing on a crowded Paris street. His camera captured fleeting human moments in urban environments.

"Franco wanted to explore something totally new," recalls senior artistic director Pierre Parisien, a Montreal native who has been on the Cirque team since 1994.

After creating fanciful non-human characters for the earlier spectacles Saltimbanco and Alegria, "Franco wanted to be inspired by the life of real human beings," says Parisien. "The essence of Quidam is real human emotions. It touches people.... The comment that I hear the most is, 'Oh my god, I was moved.'"

Quidam had its premiere as a "big top" show in 1996 and was later reworked for arenas. It's the sixth Cirque production to play the MTS Centre, after Delirium in 2006, Saltimbanco in 2008, Alegria in 2010, Dralion last summer and Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour last fall.

The word "quidam" (pronounced "key-dahm") means a nameless passerby; a nobody (or everyman) in the crowd.

The theme of the 52-performer Quidam, which opens a seven-performance run at the MTS Centre on Thursday, is that inside every nobody is a unique somebody who longs to free his or her soul, express individuality and be noticed.

The central character (one of the show's two singers) is a bored little girl named Zoé whose parents ignore her. A faceless character who wears a bowler hat and carries an umbrella leads her into an imaginary realm where dazzling acrobats, aerial performers, clowns and characters help liberate her spirit and heal her family.

The highly skilled circus feats include hand-balancing, German wheel, human pyramids, diabolo (Chinese yo-yo), a virtuosic skipping-rope routine, Spanish webs, juggling and aerial hoops.

Art lovers will recognize the influence of Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte on the bowler-hatted figure. Another surrealist painter, Paul Delvaux, also influenced the show's design.

Quidam was the first Cirque show to costume the acrobatic acts in modified street clothes, to emphasize their links to the everyday world.

The set has a grey, moody urban feel, meant to evoke a busy public space like a train station or airport. It's dominated by a huge metal structure with trolleys that run on five tracks. The trolleys transport performers and props, and aerial acts are suspended from the structure.

The coldness of the setting, Parisien says, "makes a big contrast with the emotions."

Reviews of the show always praise an astonishing, semi-erotic act called Statue in which a male and female acrobat perform "sculptural, slow-motion, intertwined lifts and contortions" (to quote England's The Telegraph), never losing contact with each other.

Parisien notes that Zoé's alienated parents separately watch this beautiful expression of harmony, intimacy, equality and interdependence. "It's a reminiscence of them when they were a (happy) couple. Who is the female force and who is the male force? Sometimes you will see it switch. It's a nice balance."

Also frequently praised by critics is a clown who pulls people out of the audience and improvises charming scenes with them. It ties in with the theme of a nameless person emerging from the horde and expressing themselves "under the light for a few minutes," says Parisien.

"We are all creative if we want to be," he adds.



Cirque du soleil

-- MTS Centre

-- Thursday to Sunday

-- Tickets $55.75 to $112.50 at Ticketmaster

Cirque facts

-- Cirque du soleil (Circus of the Sun) was founded in 1984. The Montreal-based entertainment empire grew out of a street-performance troupe.

-- More than 100 million spectators on six continents have seen a Cirque show.

-- Current touring shows: Dralion, Varekai, Quidam, Alegra, Saltimbanco, Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, Corteo, Kooza, Ovo, Totem and Amaluna.

-- Current resident shows in cities such as Las Vegas, Orlando and New York: O, Mystère, Zumanity, La Nouba, Iris, K, Love, Criss Angel: Believe, Viva Elvis, Zaia and Zarkana.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2012 G3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Selinger addresses stadium lawsuit

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • KEN GIGLIOTTI  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / July 23 2009 - 090723 - Bart Kives story - Harry Lazarenko Annual River Bank Tour - receding water from summer rains and erosion  damage by flood  and ice  during spring flooding -  Red River , Lyndale Dr. damage to tree roots , river bank damage  , high water marks after 2009 Flood - POY
  • A group of Horese pose for the camera in the early evening light at Southcreek Stables in Stl Norbert Wednessday. Sept  14, 2011 (RUTH BONNEVILLE) / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google