Check Availability

Weekly Inspiration From Dan

Get Dan’s free coaching videos & blog posts every week in your inbox!

Have a topic you would like to see here? Let us know!

A Peek Behind the Curtain of Cirque du Soleil

Last week I was offered a rare and wonderful opportunity to peek (and linger) behind the curtain of Cirque du Soleil. In Atlanta, where I live, Cirque is mid-way through the run of Kooza, the latest traveling spectacle from the Montreal based circus phenomenon who has revolutionized and redefined the “circus” of our times.

A Show and Company Like No Other

I am the biggest of Cirque fans. I’ve seen ten different shows, including touring performances and permanent shows in Las Vegas and Orlando. I’ve also had the privilege to work with Cirque du Soleil’s outreach program, Cirque du Monde, and to visit and train at Cirque headquarters in Montreal. Although the company has attained unprecedented success and has grown into a global entertainment empire, Cirque has always remained true to its artistic roots. Furthermore, through worldwide social outreach efforts and contributions, Cirque leads the way in responsible corporate citizenship.

An Invitation from the Master

World renowned juggler Anthony Gatto (in my book and in the record books, the best there is) is one of the featured acts in Kooza. Anthony invited me, my wife, and our son, Eddie, to sit in the “Artists’ Tent” during the performance and hang out with the cast and crew who make the magic happen. This was for me (a lifelong student of world class performance) the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s “Golden Ticket,” and way better than a front row seat in the big top.

Anthony and his wife, Danielle, have worked with Kooza for about 1 1/2 years. Their rigorous schedule calls for 9 shows per week, each demanding a near super human effort from the entire, 40 person cast.

In the Artists’ Tent we were able to watch the performance via widescreen television, a single camera shot that captured the events taking place in the “Grand Chapiteau” (performance tent), just a few dozen feet from where we sat. We could clearly hear the crowd’s roars and applause. But the real show, trust me, was taking place all around us. The sizable space we occupied housed a trampoline, aerial apparatus, a tight wire and plenty of floor space for rehearsal.

When Dorothy peeked behind the curtain (with Toto’s help) to spy on The Wizard of Oz, she was devastated and disappointed to learn the secret of his illusions. In stark contrast, my peek behind the curtain of Cirque only amplified my admiration and astonishment.

This production, like every Cirque experience, is a fantastic, seemingly flawless work of moving art. From my vantage point, I watched the precision flow of performers and props, the efforts of the production crew to coordinate the backstage action, and overheard conversations in at least six languages – a testament to the global and universal aspects that make Cirque so special.

I didn’t understand all of those conversations, of course, but I did gain some insight that will have an impact on the way I approach and evaluate future performances, as a participant, as well as a spectator.

Observations – Some of the take away lessons you and I can apply, included:


  1. World Class Talent and Professionalism. The best of the best, at their best – each person is fantastically talented, yet they all behave with the utmost class and humility.
  2. Success is an Ensemble Effort. Without exception, cast and crew were kind natured, mutually supportive and genuinely fun to be around.
  3. Always Improving. Even though this was the second performance of the day and the eighth of the week, no one took the challenge lightly. They were constantly fine tuning their skills, working with trainers, and engaged in an unending quest for improvement.
  4. Everyone has Many Parts. Each person had multiple roles to play, both onstage and off. Sometimes they were featured as the “stars.” At other times, they were in less visible, but equally important support roles, throwing focus, spotting fellow performers, and contributing to the larger stage picture.
  5. Keeping it Fresh. Stefan, the gentlemen who plays the central character “The Innocent” was kind enough to chat with us and pose for a picture. When I told him that this was the third time I’ve seen Kooza, he said “Really the third time?” Then, with a quick glance a the show board, which listed the acts, the date, and the number of this night’s performance, he continued, “For me. It’s number 673.” Yet, each performer knows that every performance is brand new to the audience. So they constantly find ways to stay engaged, innovative, and keep the performance a fresh, real, and authentic experience.

Thank you Anthony, for the experience of a lifetime. I’ll long remember the “hang time” backstage with you and your amazing coworkers. And I’ll strive to apply the experience to improve my own performances, relationships, and roles … on and off the stage.

  • Lisa Lewis says:

    Cirque has been a favorite of my family for the past 10 years…. we are up to 8 shows now… I will agree that each is unique and hypnotizing. Our most recent visit to Vegas at Thanksgiving took us back to see “LOVE” at the mirage… a must see if you have not already. Once again your observations and comments are perfect… I pass them along to all my peers here at SunTrust.. thanks for including me on your inspirational messages.. looking forward to the next !

  • chris young says:

    I like the affirmation of the relationship between class and humility. I’ve heard humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less often. Your first comment about world class talent and professionalism fits that idea- that in addition to phenomenal talent, each individual must strive for the common good so that all will excel. The other points seem to derive from the first one.

  • Alf Sauve says:

    Thanks for sharing your backstage experience, Dan. I’m going to see them 2/17. I look forward to it.

    Circus has always been pretty much a “team” sport.


  • Leave a Comment

    We use cookies on this website. To learn about the cookies we use and your preferences, please click here. By using our website, you agree to the use of our cookies.