The co-founder, president and creative overlord of Cirque du Soleil, Laliberte and his troupe virtually re-invented the circus in the 1980s and ‘90s by combining traditional acrobatics and clowning with performance art elements, striking visual designs and an increasingly sophisticated multi-cultural and globalized sensibility.
The son of a public relations executive and a nurse, Laliberte left home in the early 1970s and began performing in the streets as a stilt walker, fire-breather, magician and juggler. Living and working on the streets, he said, taught him how to trust his instincts, as well as the value of creative camaraderie. He collaborated in forming Cirque du Soleil in Montreal in 1984 and became its sole owner in 2000.
A financial and artistic turning point came for Cirque when it performed at the Los Angeles Arts Festival in1987, its first appearance outside Canada. Laliberte’s financial gamble paid off, as the troupe received rave reviews and immediately raised its international profile.
Today, Laliberte presides over one of the world’s most recognizable, admired and imitated entertainment brands. In addition to its extensive world touring, Cirque du Soleil has mounted seven shows in custom-built theaters on the Las Vegas Strip; has full-time productions running in China, Japan and Orlando, Fla.; and is contracted to open new shows in 2011 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
Cirque employs 5,000 people worldwide, including 1,200 performing artists from nearly 50 countries, and its blue-and-yellow striped big-top tent has become a visual signature recognized from L.A. to Tokyo.