Want to see Cirque du Soleil? A single ticket to a live performance of the impossibly acrobatic dancers will set you back as much as £85 in London. You’ll have to part with S$148 in Singapore. In Las Vegas, you’ll pay $359 for a center seat vaguely close to the front of the stage. But in Quebec City, Canada you’ll pay C$0. At current exchange rates, that works out to US$0, €0 or ¥0.
And there’s no gimmick. You don’t have to win a contest, hear a sales pitch for a timeshare or creatively acquire someone else’s ticket. Anyone can show up at a Cirque du Soleil performance in Quebec City and watch it—for free.
The version of Cirque that’s on offer in Quebec City is called Les Chemins Invisibles (The Invisible Paths). Quebec’s provincial capital is the only place on the planet you can see Les Chemins Invisibles, and no other Cirque du Soleil show takes place in a venue quite like this: The performance happens outside, downtown, underneath the bridge for a highway overpass!
Don’t let the price tag, or lack thereof, lead you to believe that Les Chemins Invisibles isn’t a “real” Cirque du Soleil. The 90-minute long show features the same sorts of breathtaking stunts and amazing visual effects you’d see at a Cirque performance in London, Singapore or Vegas. Compared to those big city shows, one could argue that Les Chemins Invisibles is more in keeping with the original spirit of Cirque du Soleil, which was founded by two Quebecois street performers from the the town of Baie-Saint-Paul, a short way up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.
Les Chemins Invisibles has been running during the summers in Quebec City since 2009, though every year the performers change about 20% of the material. The basic premise of the story centers around three “tribes” who meet up in the dreams of a little girl. The dancers who comprise each tribe acrobatically make their way onto the stage starting from different street corners. So, you could attend Les Chemins Invisibles three times and see three slightly different shows depending on where you stand.
The catch, of course, is that you do have to stand. At least, if you want to see the show for free. There is a much less crowded “VIP area” with arranged seating; even there access costs only C$18 per person.
After watching the show, give a mental thank you to the taxpayers of Quebec City. The city government foots the show’s entire $6.8 million annual bill. Officials are currently negotiating to bring free public performances of Les Chemins Invisibles back for 2013. In case they aren’t successful, we suggest taking advantage of the opportunity this summer. The show is spectacular. And the price is right.
Planning your trip
When: Performances are Tuesday through Saturday nights, 23 June to 1 September 2012. The show starts at sunset, which means the exact start time changes a bit day to day.
Location: Under the Dufferin highway overpass, downtown in the Saint-Roch district.
Where to stay: Several cool hotels are within walking distance of the show. Check out Hôtel Le Germain-Dominion.
If you go: Show up on a early side (eg. around 7pm) if you want to be near the front of the stage. Also, check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly if it calls for rain.
Family friendly? Absolutely! New for 2012: a special viewing area for kids. One guardian adult is allowed to accompany each child into the kids viewing area.
For the bookshelf: Cirque du Soleil: Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All
Elsewhere on the web: