Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and located in the inner-city area of Saint-Michel, Cirque du Soleil was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier.
Initially named Les Échassiers, they toured Quebec in 1980 as a performing troupe and encountered financial hardship that was relieved by a government grant in 1983 as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. Cirque du Soleil expanded rapidly through the 1990s and 2000s, going from one show to approximately 3,500 employees from over 40 countries producing 15 shows over every continent except Africa and Antarctica, with an estimated annual revenue exceeding US$600 million. The multiple permanent Las Vegas shows alone play to more than 9,000 people a night. Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world, with its own central theme and storyline. They draw the audience into the performance through continuous live music, with performers rather than stagehands changing the props.
Cirque du Soleil's creations have been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, including Bambi, Rose d'Or, three Gemini Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards.