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Marrying technology and entertainment: Cirque du Soleil’s Lamarre gives ISE 2017 Closing Keynote

The importance of taking risks, allowing creativity to flourish and relishing new challenges were key themes of the ISE 2017 Closing Keynote, given by Daniel Lamarre, CEO of Cirque du Soleil.

The world’s largest theatrical production company, Cirque du Soleil’s shows combine acrobatics and other traditional circus skills with cutting-edge audiovisuals and staging. During a very engaging and entertaining presentation, Lamarre, who is responsible for the company’s creative and business strategy, gave some pointers from his time at Cirque du Soleil that can be applied to other businesses in the worlds of creativity and technology.

“I’m a big believer that new technology is going to change entertainment,” he said, going on to describe some of the ways that evolving technology has influenced the evolution of a number of highly successful Cirque du Soleil productions.

An important part in the development of Cirque shows, which helps to push the envelope creatively is C:LAB. This an in-house creative laboratory where new ideas and technologies can be tested, with a view to incorporating them into future productions.

Cirque’s very first show in Las Vegas, Mystère, which is still running after 22 years, contains a spectacular, but expensive special effect where a curtain is shredded into a large number of pieces. Steve Wynn, the owner of the casino venue, questioned the need for it, but, Lamarre recounted, the company’s founder Guy Laliberté insisted that it would create a wow factor that audiences would remember. “When you want to do a breakthrough in technology, you have to take risk,” said Lamarre.

Being open to new ideas has been a constant throughout Lamarre’s time as Cirque CEO. He recounted meetings with Paul McCartney, James Cameron and representatives of Michael Jackson’s estate, all of which resulted in new shows.

Lamarre also described how one of his creative teams – generally comprised of people with a mix of nationalities, to provide a varied perspective – once explained to him their vision of a show without a stage, using technologies that didn’t exist, but which they thought could be created by bringing together the work of two people who had not met before, and which they wanted to pitch to MGM. “Isn’t it great?” they exclaimed, full of optimism. MGM’s response? “’Only you guys from Cirque du Soleil can be crazy like that – so let’s go, do it.’” The result was , which has been seen by more than a million people since it opened in 2005.

He concluded: “If you take the words ‘show business’, the word ‘show’ comes first. If you have a great show, you will have a great business. If you don’t have a good show, you will have no business.”