Nouveau Cirque

Cirque du Soleil (Official Site, YouTube, Wikipedia) is the most well known example of a genre called nouveau cirque (French) or contemporary circus (English).

Nouveau cirque is a genre of performing arts in which a story or a theme is conveyed through traditional circus skills. Animals are rarely used in this type of circus, and traditional circus skills are blended with a more character-driven approach. Compared with the traditional circuses of the past, the contemporary approach tends to focus more attention on the overall aesthetic impact, on character and story development, and on the use of lighting design, original music, and costume design to convey thematic or narrative content. — Wikipedia

The more you know about Cirque du Soleil, the easier it is to see how they achieved such overwhelming success. While their shows are amazing spectacles that are perfectly executed on every dimension, their results are also based on their constant quest to innovate.

For example, Cirque du Soleil’s ongoing collaboration with Felix and Paul Studios illustrates their interest in experimenting with new technologies that expand their repertoire of tricks to entertain and win new audiences. Check out this mesmerizing 360° YouTube Video trailer for Inside the Box of Kurios Cabinet of Curiosities which is one of the latest results of the partnership.

This is a 360° YouTube video — press and hold to explore!


Here’s a video with more background about the production.

DREAMS OF “O” is another VR experience created and produced through the award-winning partnership.

This is a 360° YouTube video — press and hold to explore!


You can see the full 12-minute 360-degree, 3D experience on Cirque du Soleil’s Facebook page, and Cirque du Soleil even maintains a separate YouTube Channel dedicated to their VR and 360° work.

As you dig deeper into Cirque du Soleil’s creative process, you find out that they even maintain an R&D incubator called C:Lab where they foster cutting edge ideas to contribute to the evolution of their performance.

One recent, highly visible example of C:LAB’s work was a demo at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in mid-May where they showed off a HoloLens toolset for set designs.


Here are a couple of techie stories about their demo.
Microsoft’s latest HoloLens partner: Cirque du Soleil (Scott Stein, CNET)
Live Mixed Reality Demo Shows Seamless Cross-AR/VR Collaboration (Dominic Brennan, Road to VR)

Cirque du Soleil’s work is the premiere example of what led to the dominance of the contemporary circus format, but if you are still mourning the recent demise of the beloved Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, then check out the Big Apple Circus — they are still touring and performing in the traditional, good old fashioned way.

Find out more about Performing Arts and Spectacle