Themes and Symbols in Quidam Part One

While working on my master’s degree in music, I took advantage of the many resources at my fingertips. When I needed a break from usual studying, I would see what I could find about Cirque du Soleil.  One of my favorite databases that I had access to was ProQuest. It is mainly a electronic archive of dissertations and theses from universities all around the world.  There are actually a few written about Cirque du Soleil. The one that caught most of my attention was a Ph.D thesis written by Jamie Skidmore at the University of Toronto entitled, A Critical Analysis of Cirque du Soleil: 1987-2001. In his thesis he looks at all of the Cirque du Soleil shows from Cirque Reinventé to Dralion to bring attention to symbols used in the New Circus genre.

Some of these themes you may already be familiar with. I feel, however, that for the sake of the site I will reiterate the more commonly known ones so that they are documented.

Starting with the subject of their Mise-en-scène Quidam he first discusses the Telepherique and how it allowed seamless transitions between acts. He felt that the show contained the most cohesive Mise-en-scène of any cirque show because a central theme, the freeing of emotions, held a strong line that the audience was able to follow throughout the show.

He of course brings up the subject of René Magritte’s paintings that were a big influence on the show. Particularly the painting that portrayed a man in a suit with a bowler hat with his head obscured.  Naturally, this is apparent with the character of Quidam being a headless man carrying an umbrella and a bowler hat. He believes that the bowler hat symbolizes a mind full of ideas.  So when Zoe places it on her head she is transported to a place full of new ideas and thoughts.  He also claims that the Teleferique itself is in the shape of a bowler hat. Although it is shaped in a curve, I do not see that connection. As for the umbrella, he brings attention to the fact that at the time, an umbrella was used in every show.  In addition to following that tradition, he suggests that Quidam carried the umbrella to protect himself from becoming “clean” and another face in the crowd like the Chiennes Blanche (the silent chorus-the anonymous crowd in white sanitary jumpsuits).  A very interesting theory.

There are also the possible allusions to the Wizard of Oz.  In the transition to German Wheel after the Petit Salon scene, John puts on the father’s shoes.  This suggests that Zoe represents Dorothy. What further reinforces this idea is that the Diabolos are dressed as “tin men.” Since the tin man was in search of a heart, it is fitting they would choose such costumes to follow the thematic search for emotion and passion.

To be continued…

[Source: Skidmore, Jamie. A Critical Analysis of Cirque du Soleil: 1987-2001.  Univesity of Toronto, 2002.]


New Locations Added to Itinerary

New dates were announced today for Quidam’s Arena tour. They are as follows:

Reno, NV – May 4, 2011 to

Ontario, CA – April 27, 2011 to April 24 2011

Long Beach, CA – April 20, 2011

San Francisco, CA – April 6, 2011 to

San Diego, CA – March 30, 2011 to Aptril 3, 2011

San Jose, CA – March 24, 2011 to March 27, 2011

Everett, WA – March 16, 2011 to March 20, 2011

Vancouver, BC – March 9, 2011 to March 13, 2011

The Magic Touch

Through my research, I came across this documentary made about Dominique Lemieux, the costume designer. It was released in 2005 but appears to only be available to organizations and libraries and not personal use.  The director, Carlos Ferrand Zavala, documents Lemieux’s life from childhood to the creation of Corteo. Included in this film is a lot of footage of Quidam while they were in Japan.

There are a couple of stills available and a short trailer of the first minute or so. Perhaps I should research this further and attempt to obtain a copy…

Click on this image for the main website:

Click here for the distribution site with the trailer

KTV Japan

I recieved this brochure from Shayne Courtright, the former German Wheel artist, in 2003 while they were on tour in Japan.  It is from KTV (Kansai Telecasting Company) advertising various shows making their way through Japan.  Although the images within are small, you can see Denise Gonzalez as Zoe and Marina Trouchina for Handbalancing.

Quidam in Zurich

Since I first saw Quidam in 1998, I have accumulated a lot of artifacts through various means. My brother spent a semester traveling through Europe and crossed paths with Quidam when they were in Zürich during their first European tour. Though he didn’t attend the show, he did pick me up a brochure.  I especially like this brochure because of the great photo of Andrea Ziegler as Fritz. Keep checking back, I will be posting more rare finds in the coming days and weeks!  Click on the jump to see the other side of the brochure and click on the images for a closer view.

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Recent Footage

While going through the recent press videos and video clips of Quidam on youtube, I came across something peculiar. Look at :55 seconds in of this video:

This is the Petit Salon opening sequence of the show. But something is off. Zoe is sitting and facing John instead of the audience. Also, she is wearing the hat and it falls off as she stands up. It is then that the scene around her begins to drift away (her parents, the rug, etc.) Then John takes the bowler hat from her as she attempts to put it on again. This is extremely bizarre because it is a central turning point in the scene that when she places the hat on her head for the first time she is transported into the world of Quidam. Is this a mistake? Did they change the choreography?
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General concepts behind Quidam

I’m a bit Wayback Machine happy this evening. I’ve been pulling up old 1997 and 1998 versions of the Cirque du Soleil website to get more dates for the Itinerary page but got sidetracked by the page they dedicated to Quidam and the general concepts of the show.  A lot of the quotes and descriptions are ones you will still see today. But there is something outdated they have scrapped   Because the show premiered four years before the new millenium, there is a lot more emphasis of the show anticipating the 21st century.

The page begins with a quote from the Franco Dragone:

This show highlights our frailties and our anguish in the face of the new millennium that lies before us. It also underlines differences, conveying positive feelings and resentment and confronting our dreams with our nightmares.

Quidam is a more scripted show; it integrates performance and theatricality to a greater degree than previous productions, and draws on the emotional relationships between the performers in the troupe.

[Source: Cirque du Soleil Inc. 1996]

They again bring up the new millenium when marketing the album:

“When I’m composing for Cirque du Soleil, a lot of my inspiration comes from the work of other creators,” he explains. “And that was the big challenge of Quidam: to maintain unity while dealing with a changing structure, costumes and sets. And, of course, the story…”

Because Quidam is first and foremost a story — a true story, one known to all of us: the tale of human solitude in a world of anonymous faces, on the brink of the third millennium.

With his music Benoît Jutras roams the globe, leading us from dream to reality and reality to dream…

[Source: Cirque du Soleil Inc. 1996]

Today the website relies more on pictures than text to convey the concept behind Quidam. But one thing that remains consistent from its beginnings to today is this central idea:

Quidam: a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past. It could be anyone, anybody. Someone coming, going, living in our anonymous society. A member of the crowd, one of the silent majority. The one who cries out, sings and dreams within us all. This is the “quidam” that Cirque du Soleil is celebrating.

A young girl fumes; she has already seen everything there is to see, and her world has lost all meaning. Her anger shatters her little world, and she finds herself in the universe of Quidam. She is joined by a joyful companion as well as another character, more mysterious, who will attempt to seduce her with the marvelous, the unsettling, and the terrifying.

[Source: Cirque du Soleil 2010]