Cirque du Soleil has performed La Nouba to large audiences at Disney Springs in Orlando for 18 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s an old act. Like Walt Disney World Parks, the show is constantly evolving to ensure that families are entertained in a new way no matter how many times they’ve seen the show.
Cirque du Soleil and its show, La Nouba, are a perfect fit for visitors to Disney Springs in Orlando. However, its history is just as interesting as the show itself, and it all began with a dream.
The Dream of a New Kind of Circus
The company began as the dream of a couple of street performers from Quebec, Canada who wanted to create a new kind of spectacle. Not unlike another dreamer we know, the Cirque’s founders, Guy Laliberté, Daniel Gauthier and Gilles Ste-Croix, had a vision to create a contemporary circus.
They envisioned a show with neither a ring nor animals. Their rationale was that the lack of both of these things would draw the audience more into the performance as a whole. At the same time, it would make the show especially attractive to families (and this mom) who avoided circuses because of concerns about animal treatment.
After more failures than successes in this mission, the Quebec government saved the day by giving the struggling troupe the break they needed in 1983 with a $1.5 million arts grant, and the Cirque du Soleil was officially born.
With this seed money, the dreamers took it to the next level by hiring Guy Caron, from the National Circus School in Montreal, as artistic director. Their collective vision was to emulate the Moscow Circus’ method of telling a story rather than independent unconnected one-act segments you’d see in a traditional Big Top show.
Cirque has 12 active resident shows across North America. La Nouba has been in residence at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) since 1998. The show is a perfect fit for Disney World because, much like Disney, it brings a multicultural experience to the audience by borrowing themes and acts from around the world.
La Nouba is more than a static performance; it is a living thing. By continuously adding and taking away acts, modifying its costumes and set design, it ensures that families will always see something it did not see before.
Derived from the French phrase “faire la nouba” meaning “to party” or “to live it up,” the title embodies the atmosphere you will find at the show. The overarching theme for this show is the convergence of two alternative worlds. The show has an international cast of 67 artists from 14 different countries, who portray performers from an exotic circus and the sophisticated urbane. The show has original music, composed by Benoît Jutras, that is performed live by six musicians and two singers.
The show opens with a cleaning lady, La Femme de Ménage, who is unobtrusively mopping the stage. Her daydreams take her to an incredible fantasy world. Astonished by what goes on around her, she sweeps and dusts until her dream becomes a reality and what results is circus on steroids.
Throughout the show are sweet romantic touches with Pierrot, the clown and his unattainable love, the lost ballerina (also husband and wife in real life!).
A trio of breakdancers, Josh Ortiz (“Incredible Josh”), Jean Carlos (“Bebo”) and Dmytro Li (“flying Buddha”) bring an element of urban cool to the show with a nod to the street performer origins of its founders. These B-boys have come from around the globe to show off their best backspins, flips and tricks.
Most famous are the Cirque’s aerialists and this show will not disappoint. These performances will keep your heart in your throat because they are performed without a net and sometimes without a safety strap. My thoughts were always with their mothers.
What sets Cirque du Soleil apart from traditional circus fare are its costumes. In La Nouba, costume designer, Dominque Lemieux, mixed historical and traditional circus ideas with contemporary street fashion à la Jean Paul Gaultier, using real and synthetic hair, feathers and leather to create the fantasy world.
Many of the performers undergo a metamorphosis indicated by dramatic costume changes; for instance, the urbanites’ outfits begin in dark, muted blues, reds, and greens and end in white, fairy-like outfits.
The theater housing La Nouba is the first freestanding permanent structure built for Cirque du Soleil. Custom built for the company, the theater, located on the West Side of Disney Springs, is easy to spot because its design is reminiscent of a traditional albeit elegant circus tent by it use of fabric and tension.
What makes the show great for all families
- It’s located in Disney Springs, which has no entrance fee
- Families on a budget can stay at the moderately priced Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Wyndham Resort, that connects directly to Disney Springs and make a whole day (or two) of it starting with swimming at the hotel pool, bowling and lunch at Splitsville, visiting the Disney Quest gaming center and then enjoying dinner before the show
- The show appeals to all ages; the costumes, energy and the acrobatics thrill the younger children, while the breakdancing and the music bring the cool factor for teens
- Experience live theater with live music and original compositions
- It never gets old because it is an evolving performance
- It fits with Disney’s positive theme of dreaming
What to Know Before You Go
- The show is 90 minutes in length without any intermission
- Shows are at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
- Located in Disney Spring’s west side
- Tickets start at $59 and there is reduced pricing for the ages 3-9