We spoke to our fellow scouts to find out a little more, and here's what came out: being present at festivals allows us to discover talent, develop our network of contacts, and stay on top of new trends.
There are a hundred or so festivals around the world, and they can be divided into two main categories: those, like Montréal Complètement Cirque, which program complete shows, and those, like the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, which present acts and take the form of a competition with a jury. The latter are the most interesting for our Casting team, since the artists who take part generally do so independently, at a time in their career when they are available and open to contract offers from circus companies.
Every Festival has its DNA, its uniqueness. Some showcase artists who have never been seen in Europe, for example, or whose artists must be under 25 years of age. Some invite only artists whose style is more contemporary, while others are resolutely traditional. Sometimes, an artistic constraint is imposed on all participants, as at the Salieri Circus Awards in Italy, where each performer must adapt their act to a piece of classical music to be played live by the festival orchestra. Some festivals serve as springboards for young artists, such as Young Stage in Basel, or Cirque de Demain in Paris, while others bring together a selection of experienced artists, as in Monte Carlo, where being invited represents more of a consecration, a recognition of an artist's career. In all cases, we benefit from opportunities to promote career opportunities at Cirque du Soleil, and in some cases, we discover rare gems that were previously unknown to us.
Most of these events depend on ticket sales and sponsorships. Some also sell broadcasting rights. The key is to attract artists who will appeal not only to their audience but also to the scouts who return year after year. It's also strategic to have a jury made up of representatives of prestigious companies in the eyes of the artists so that they agree to take part in the competition. The presence of high-profile artists also influences jury members in their decision whether or not to accept the invitation.
In general, the jury is composed of directors of other festivals, directors of circus schools, recruiters (like us!) and, occasionally, former artists who have had enviable careers in the industry.
And what about the awards we present?
Since 2008, we have presented over sixty trophies at circus festivals. While the original purpose of the Cirque du Soleil award was to recognize innovation in an act (in performance, apparatus, artistic research, etc.), over time we've also rewarded artists who stand out simply for their level of technical virtuosity. The presentation of the trophy is also a way of expressing to the community of circus artists the qualities that Cirque du Soleil is always seeking.
In addition to this award, we are gradually putting in place a project to facilitate the hiring of "coup de cœur" artists we occasionally discover at festivals. Many of these artists receive on-the-spot contracts from other companies for the years to come, which is difficult for us at Cirque given the complexity of the decision-making process leading to the selection of artists for our shows. With this in mind, the "On the Spot" project was born. The logistics, which are still being worked out, mean that we can quickly offer a letter of intent to an exceptional artist, after a brief, streamlined approval process in collaboration with the Creative Guide and the Vice-President Creation. These engagement awards are invaluable to artists, because after all, when they perform on the festival stage, it's to find work.
So why go to festivals? It allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry, spot extraordinary artists and create shows that will continue to captivate and amaze audiences worldwide.