Zed (Cirque du Soleil)

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Company Cirque du Soleil
Genre Contemporary circus
Show type Resident show
Date of premiere October 1, 2008
Final show December 31, 2011
Location Cirque du Soleil Theater, Tokyo Disney Resort, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Creative team
Artistic guide Gilles Ste-Croix
Executive producer Francois Macerola
Writer and director François Girard
Creation director Line Tremblay
Set designer François Séguin
Costume designer Renée April
Composer and arranger René Dupéré
Lighting designer David Finn
Choreographers Debra Brown
Jean-Jacques Pillet
Sound designer François Bergeron
Acrobatic equipment and rigging designer Scott Osgood
Acrobatic performance designer Florence Pot
Make-up designer Eleni Uranis
Production manager Michael Anderson
Guest creator-dramatist Serge Lamothe
Other information
Preceded by Zaia (2008)
Succeeded by Criss Angel Believe (2008)
Official website

Zed was Cirque du Soleil's second resident show in Asia. It premiered on October 1, 2008 at the Cirque du Soleil Theater, Tokyo Disney Resort, in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan.[1] Inspiration for Zed was taken from the Tarot and its Arcana; the main character Zed represents the Fool of the Tarot. The show depicted Zed's journey and his role in uniting two mythical groups, the people of the earth and sky. The production closed permanently on December 31, 2011.


Due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, shows from March 11 through April 20, 2011 were cancelled. The artists and staff of Zed were temporarily relocated to Macau where they continued training at Cirque du Soleil's resident show Zaia. The major benefit of relocating there was that the team was able to partner with the crews of Koozå (which was also relocated from Japan) and Zaia at the Macau training facilities.[2] The troupe was able to start performances again on April 23 after a thorough safety inspection of the theatre and facilities had been undertaken.[3]

On Sunday, July 24, 2011, it was announced to the cast and crew of Zed that the The Oriental Land Company and Cirque du Soleil had come to an agreement to permanently close the production on December 31, 2011. The closure was due to the business environment that arose from the impacts of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Zed had reached its one-millionth guest faster than any show in Japan, and had seen great success with over 1,000 performances.[4]

Set and technical information[edit]

Cirque du Soleil spent three years constructing the Cirque du Soleil Theatre Tokyo for its resident show Zed.[5] The theatre, which is located at the Tokyo Disney Resort, was exclusively designed for Zed. The roof was formed by polyhedrons and was made to look similar to the circus tents seen at Cirque du Soleil's grand chapiteau touring shows. The form was designed to capture the sun's light from any angle.[6]

François Séguin, set designer, drew inspiration for the set design from the astrolabe. The atmosphere of the stage was intended to evoke the High Renaissance and the beginning of the Mechanical Age. Finishings of the stage included many brass and copper components representing mechanical gears. Above the stage, a globe showed the meridians and lines of latitude, while the Milky Way and phases of the moon appeared on the stage floor. Also seen throughout the stage and show was the "Zed Alpha"—a 26-letter alphabet created for the show.[5]

Due to safety concerns arising from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Cirque du Soleil ordered a NZ$15,000 inflatable air bag from Canvasland located in Levin, New Zealand. The nylon cushion measured 12 by 5 metres (39 ft × 16 ft) and weighed 200 kilograms (440 lb). The design included an air mattress base and inflated tongs; this allowed the artist to fall safely in any position without bouncing off. The new device was used in the high wire act, ensuring additional safety in the event of any new earthquakes and aftershocks.[7]


As the inspiration of Zed was the Tarot and its Arcana, many of the characters were based on this tradition.[8]

  • Zed: Represents the Fool of the Tarot and is the main character in Zed.
  • Nouit: Representative of the starry sky, she is a singer and the incarnation of the Great Goddess, Mother of the Sky.
  • Erato: Is the Goddess of Heaven.
  • Abraka: As a representation of the Magician in Tarot, he is the father of Earth and another one of the singers.
  • Kernoon: Is another singer and represents the Tarot card of the Devil.
  • Shaman: As representative of the Hierophant (i.e. the Pope) in the Tarot, the Shaman guides Zed throughout his journey.
  • Djinn: Accompanies the Shaman and is the bringer of light and fire.
  • Clowns: Two clowns named Oulai and Nalai


The acts of Zed featured various circus skills:[9][10][11]

  • Vortex: The opening of the show, a vortex effect was created by a large silk sheet that covered the stage plummeting into a hole.
  • Bungee: Four female performers represented the sky by flipping and twisting off a trapeze with bungee chords.
  • Lassos: A Chinese troupe manipulated lassos, they would spin the lassos while tumbling through them, this act represented the earth.
  • Poles and trampoline: A group of men from the earth tried to reach the women of the sky by jumping from a trampoline and climbing poles.
  • Solo tissue: A jaw-dropping tissu act, the artist wrapped the silk around her body, she flipped and twisted to unwrap herself. This act represented the air.
  • High wire: A trio of performers walked a high wire precariously, the wire was in the border of the sky world and the earth world.
  • Juggling: A group of men representing the earth juggled clubs, discs and even fire clubs.
  • Banquine: A large group of acrobats were flung high in the air by porters, and created high human towers.
  • Straps: Two women, each representing the different worlds performed tricks in perfect synchronisation.
  • Batons: A world champion baton twirler spun and threw up to three batons at a time,
  • Hand to hand: A woman of the sky and a man if the earth united in this touching balancing act.
  • Flying trapeze: A group of trapeze artists flew to each other's trapezes performing flips throughout.
  • Charivari: The worlds united, and every act came together in this amazing finale.


Central to Zed's theme was the uniting of the people from the earth and sky. To set them apart, costume designer Renée April chose iridescent colors, pale shades, and a heavy usage of pearl and silver for the people of the sky, and chose an Italian Renaissance color palette (gold, ochre, Venetian blue, turquoise green) for the people of the earth. Zed, who united this group, was clad in darted, all-white organza, and his outfit was reminiscent of a Pierrot. Djinn, who was part of the earth group, wore an outfit made of a stretch silicone material. The neckline had a type of gold leaf appliqué to resemble an Inca or Aztec necklace. The torso, upper body, and arms had tattoo designs printed on the silicone material.[12]

Additional highlights of the costumes included the following.[13]

  • Nouit was fitted with 14 wings. Her costume was decorated with 400 LED lights.
  • Abraka's 4 wings spread out over 18 metres (59 ft) and ranged in color from purple to gold.
  • Kernoun's yellow and dark brown ochre costume had a hundred cornettes (orange and red flowers) sewn onto it. Many of these were motorized to create a rippling effect.


René Dupéré composed the music of Zed, except First Incantation, Vaneyou Mi Le, Fiesta and Kernoon's Fire co-written by E.L. Allaire and M.L. Ferguson. The soundtrack was produced, mixed and engineered by Martin Lord Ferguson and Ella Louise Allaire. The album for Zed was released on October 13, 2009.[14] The acts associated with each song are in parentheses below.[15]

  1. First Incantation (Opening)
  2. Birth of the Sky (Bungee)
  3. Reaching Up (Poles and Trampoline)
  4. Blue Silk (Aerial Silks)
  5. High Temptation (High Wire)
  6. Vaneyou Mi Le (Banquine)
  7. Zed in Love (Aerial Straps)
  8. Kernoon's Fire (Juggling)
  9. Mirror of the Two Worlds (Baton Twirling)
  10. The Worlds Meet (Hand to Hand)
  11. Fiesta (Trapeze)
  12. Hymn of the Worlds (Charivari and Finale)
Further information: Cirque du Soleil discography


In 2010, Cirque du Soleil released Zed in Tokyo, a short documentary about the creation of Zed.[16] It was filmed in both Montreal and Tokyo.


Coordinates: 35°37′58″N 139°53′19″E / 35.632871°N 139.888614°E / 35.632871; 139.888614

  1. ^ "The First Cirque du Soleil Resident Show in Japan Celebrates its World Premiere on October 1 at Tokyo Disney Resort". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  2. ^ "Cirque moves cast, crew out of Japan". Montreal Gazette. 2011-03-15. Retrieved 2011-03-15. 
  3. ^ ""ZED" Performances Resume from April 23rd". Cirque du Soleil. 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2011-04-22. 
  4. ^ "Cirque du Soleil Theatre Tokyo, "ZED" to Close" (PDF). July 25, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Zed: Set Facts < About the Show". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  6. ^ "Zed: Theatre Concept, About the Show". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  7. ^ "Canvas company softens circus blow". Stuff.co.nz. 2011-04-25. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  8. ^ "ZED: Characters". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  9. ^ "ZED: Acts". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  10. ^ "Zed: Acts". Cirque Tribune. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  11. ^ "ZED - The Acts" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  12. ^ Clément, Ronald (2009). Cirque du Soleil 25 Years of Costumes (in CN, English, French, and JP). Canada: Dépôt légal, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. pp. 126–131. ISBN 978-2-9803493-4-8. 
  13. ^ "ZED - About the Costumes" (PDF). ZED - Press Material. Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  14. ^ "Zed (2009)". Cirque Tribune. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  15. ^ "Zed: Music". Cirque Tribune. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  16. ^ "Cirque du Soleil Documentaries Complete List". roysac.com. Retrieved 2012-01-13.