Guy Laliberté stands on a dock at the old port of Montreal and surveys the skyline. This is the city of a hundred steeples, as well as the 20-story La Grande Roue de Montréal Ferris wheel and the 90-year-old Jacques Cartier Bridge, its cantilevers a bright aqua blue. Up above is Mount Royal, the hill topped with a 100-foot steel cross. To his right, a blue-and-white-striped circus tent.
“My first baby,” says Laliberté, pointing to the big top, where Cirque du Soleil performs. A black beanie is pulled over his head, a pair of ripped jeans hang on his hips. Laliberté turns to the left, where an 81-foot-tall gleaming white pyramid stands. “My new baby,” says Laliberté, 59.
The pharaonic structure, formally known as PYI, spans 15,000 square feet, cost $30 million and is now home to Laliberté’s new acts. During the day it hosts “Through the Echoes,” an immersive light and sound show. It’s as trippy as it seems—and it only gets more so at night, when DJs arrive to spin into the early hours of the morning, presenting themed sets like “Candy World,” “Astral Plane” and “Sci-Matic.” Attendees to these events are encouraged to incorporate the evening’s theme into their attire. In “Candy World,” for example, partiers dress in shades of fluorescent pastels, creating visions of acid-laced sugar plum fairies. “Be cute, be evil, be twisted,” the event’s advertising tagline instructs. “Be anything you’d like—just don’t be shy about it.”
This is Laliberté unleashed and uninhibited once again. Decades ago, he poured those impulses into Cirque du Soleil, creating one of the most profitable and famous pieces of performance art of the last century. Most recently, it has become a franchise. There is Cirque, the Michael Jackson version. Cirque meets Messi. Cirque does the Beatles. Cirque goes underwater. It was all very lucrative—and, after a while, replicative with a predictability bordering on boring.
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