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Saturday, Oct. 28, 2000

Cirque du Soleil set to dazzle Japan

Staff writer

There is usually a charismatic man behind any successful entertainment company, and the Canadian circus group Cirque du Soleil has Guy Laliberte to thank for its success.

Founded in 1984 by Laliberte, the company has performed around the world, attracting more than 23 million people in total. Currently it is presenting seven shows (Dralion, Alegria, Mystere, O, Quidam, Saltimbanco and La Nouba) simultaneously on four continents. Visiting Japan for the fourth time, the troupe will tour the country until Sept. 20 next year, taking its Saltimbanco show to Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka and Yokohama after its current run in Tokyo.

Speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, Laliberte said it was still too early for the company (which now comprises 2,100 talented street entertainers from around the world) to rest on its laurels. But the troupe's spectacular performances prove he is doing something right.

A fantastical combination of light, music and costumes, the shows integrate aspects of theater with the circus world. Lacking dialogue, they are accessible to any nationality. Laliberte said this is one of the most satisfying aspects of the experience, to be able to talk with anyone without words. "You can transcend cultural barriers by communicating through emotion and images," he said.

Born into a family of folk musicians in Canada, Laliberte began his career busking on the streets as an accordion player. He eventually added stilt-walking and fire-eating to his repertoire. As a youngster, he dreamed of becoming an entertainer and journeying around the world. Now, at 41, he has surpassed his dreams by producing all of Cirque du Soleil's shows.

"I still believe that being an entertainer is the best job on the planet because you're trying to bring people a little happiness," he said. "Entertainment makes them forget a little about daily problems."

Laliberte says his surroundings always inspire him. From Japan, he said he has been influenced by the Kodo drummers of Sado Island, and also kabuki and noh.

With a smile, he cited another influence: kaiseki ryori, the elaborate Japanese style of dining. He said he is bewitched by the precision and elegant presentation. "When you see something done with such passion, you naturally become influenced by it."

Saltimbanco 2000, until Jan. 28 at the Big Top in Harajuku. For tickets, call Ticket Pia at (03) 5237-9999, or Lawson at (03) 5537-9999. For more information, see the Web site: www.fujitv.co.jp/bigtop/

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