Iris (Cirque du Soleil)

Coordinates: 34°06′09.75″N 118°20′24.5″W / 34.1027083°N 118.340139°W / 34.1027083; -118.340139
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Logo for Cirque du Soleil's Iris
CompanyCirque du Soleil
GenreContemporary circus
Show typeResident show
Date of premiereSeptember 25, 2011
Final showJanuary 19, 2013
LocationDolby Theatre, Los Angeles
Creative team
Writer and directorPhilippe Decouflé
Director of creationJean-François Bouchard
Set designerJean Rabasse
Costume designerPhilippe Guillotel
ComposerDanny Elfman
ChoreographerDaphné Mauger
Lighting designerPatrice Besombes
Props designerAnne-Séguin Poirier
Projections designersOlivier Simola
Christophe Waksmann
Sound designerFrançois Bergeron
Acrobatic performance designersBoris Verkhovsky
Shana Carroll
Acrobatic rigging and equipment designerPierre Masse
Artistic guideGuy Laliberté
Make-up designerNathalie Gagné
Other information
Preceded byZarkana (2011)
Succeeded byMichael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour (2011)
Official website

Iris was a resident Cirque du Soleil show based in Los Angeles, California. It premiered on September 25, 2011, after preview performances which began on July 21, 2011.[1][2] The cost for production of the show was nearly $100 million, which included the cost of renovating the Dolby Theatre in which the show was housed.[3] Iris was written and directed by French director-choreographer Philippe Decouflé.[4] The show explored images from the history of cinema and featured elaborate choreography, acrobatics, and a variety of contemporary circus acts.[5] The name of the show, Iris, comes from the camera diaphragm as well as from the colored iris of the human eye.[6]

In November 2012 it was reported that Iris would end its run at the Dolby Theatre on January 19, 2013 due to disappointing ticket sales.[3] It was later reported that Cirque du Soleil looked into the possibility of taking Iris to other cities in the United States.[7]

Scenes from Iris would later be incorporated into the Cirque du Soleil show Paramour which debuted on Broadway in New York City on May 25, 2016.[8]


Although Iris was in development for some time, the artists and creation team started preparations in Spain. At the beginning of March 2009, production and operations personnel started working in Montréal.[9] During this time, the productions and the acrobatics continued to refine the show and artists continued training until the end of April when they moved to Los Angeles as well to continue preparing for the show's premiere.[10]

Cirque du Soleil employed 125 orchestral musicians to create the pre-recorded portions of the soundtrack.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Set and technical information[edit]

Cirque du Soleil had to modify the 9,600-square-foot (890 m2) stage in the theatre at a cost of US$40,000,000 (equivalent to $52,035,503 in 2022), primarily to create stage lifts. To accommodate the lifts, 44-foot (13 m) deep pits were excavated. This changed the sets' space to measure 122 feet (37 m) from the high grid to the bottom of the pits.[13] Cirque also removed seating from the theatre, reducing seat counts from 3400 to 2500, in order to give all spectators the same viewing experience.[10] The creative team used 174 loudspeakers, 603 lighting features, 20 video projectors, and 166,000 watts of sound in the Iris production.[14] The design of the "set suggests a fairground attraction inspired by Coney Island where movies were screened to an audience for the first time."[13]


The Iris troupe consists of 72 performers, including Olympic athletes.[9][15][16] Principal characters include:

  • Buster: a composer in search of true love.
  • Scarlett: a naïve actress who longs to be a movie star.


According to the show creators, the acts of Iris are meant to evoke the sense of wonder of the cinema.[16]

  • Aerial straps duo
  • Shadows and contortion
  • Hand to hand
  • Filmstrip
  • Kiriki: a modern version of Icarian games
  • Movie set
  • Trapeze and broom manipulation
  • Trampoline (The Rooftops)
  • Hand balancing
  • Aerial ball
  • Icarian Games


Philippe Guillotel drew inspiration from numerous venues whose central theme was that of cinema. Through this extensive research into cinema's history his design team was able to create costumes which impress upon the viewer the evolution of color film. The team created a few unusual costumes for the hybrid characters:[17]

  • The two camera men have cameras mounted on their head or chest. Their live camera footage becomes part of the show at times.
  • The sound man wears a large carbon fiber cone.
  • The screen man has a 135 square feet (12.5 m2) screen that tucks inside his stomach.
  • Another character's costume was inspired by the first sound equipment used to detect the sounds of bombs.

The primary materials for this show included soft Lycra, silk stretch nylon, and natural cottons and linens. Philippe also used leather and high-tech materials such as carbon fiber for accent pieces, but stayed true to the use of the primary material selection.

  • The influence of Dick Tracy can be seen in the rooftops act, especially in the coloring of the costumes.[18]
  • One female character, portrayed by actress Ekaterina Pirogovskaya,[19] wore a skirt based on the zoetrope[5] and praxinoscope[1] that showed two boxers fighting as the skirt twirled.[18]
  • The aerial ballet act costumes are made of nearly one million Swarovski crystals.
  • The costumes for the Icarian games, or Kiriki, characters are inspired by the costumes worn in Georges Méliès films.[5]
  • In addition to the hybrid characters of the camera men, sound man, screen man, and the sound equipment persona, there are also two chairs, a lamp, a table, and moose head on a wall that are personified.
  • In addition to cinema itself, some of the costumes pay tribute to the other professions associated with it, including screenwriters, makeup artists, cinematographers, carpenters, decorators, painters, electricians, and lighting designers.[17]


Iris' soundtrack was created by Danny Elfman. The music is created by pre-recorded music from a blend of 100 orchestral musicians (the largest in Cirque du Soleil's history) spread over both large and small ensembles, mixed with the show's eight live, in-house musicians. Below are the 17 track titles from the official soundtrack album, which was originally released in 2011.[11] The italicized items are the acts associated with the adjacent tracks.[20]

  1. Buster's Big Opening
  2. The Twins (Aerial straps)
  3. Kiriki Film (Kiriki intro)
  4. Kiriki
  5. Silent Movie
  6. Patterns (Hand to hand)
  7. Clown Special Effects
  8. Pellicule - Part I and II (Film strip scene)
  9. Snake Women (Contortion)
  10. Movie Studio (Movie studio scene)
  11. The Broom (Solo trapeze intro)
  12. Flying Scarlett (Solo trapeze)
  13. Old Toys
  14. Film Noir / Pursuit (Film noir scene)
  15. Rooftops (Trampolines)
  16. Scarlett Balancing (Hand balancing on canes)
  17. Iris Finale and Bows


34°06′09.75″N 118°20′24.5″W / 34.1027083°N 118.340139°W / 34.1027083; -118.340139

  1. ^ a b Bryan Chan (2011-09-14). "Cirque du Soleil performers before and after photos". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2012-03-03.
  2. ^ "Cirque du Soleil prepares for first L.A. rehearsals of 'Iris' at Kodak Theatre". Los Angeles Times. 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2011-05-01.
  3. ^ a b David Ng; David Zahniser (November 30, 2012). "Cirque du Soleil's extravagant 'Iris' will close Jan. 19". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "Iris Creators". Cirque du Soleil.
  5. ^ a b c Maçek III, J.C. (2013-04-04). "A Cirque Du Soleil Performance in Hollywood Evokes Memories of the Circus of Hollywood". PopMatters.
  6. ^ "A new Cirque du Soleil production exclusively at Kodak Theatre Summer 2011". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2011-03-26.
  7. ^ "Sun Setting On Cirque Du Soleil's 'Iris'". CBS Local 2. 2012-12-01.
  8. ^ Paulson, Michael (April 13, 2016). "After Two New York Flops, Cirque du Soleil Bets Big on Broadway". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b "Cirque du Soleil Celebrates the Artists and Artisans of the 2011 Academy Awards". Cirque du Soleil (Press Release). 2010-02-28. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  10. ^ a b "Iris Cirque du Soleil: direction Hollywood" (in French). Cybrepress (CA). 2011-04-13. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  11. ^ a b "Cirque du Soleil - IRIS - Music". IRIS. Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  12. ^ Michael Maloney (2011-08-25). "EXCLUSIVE: 'America's Got Talent' Books Nicki Minaj, Susan Boyle, Queen Latifah, Jackie Evancho & More to Perform". HuffPost TV Group. Retrieved 2012-01-09.
  13. ^ a b "IRIS: Technical Factsheet" (PDF). IRIS: Press Material. Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  14. ^ "Cirque du Soleil Celebrates the Artists and Artisans of the 2011 Academy Awards". 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  15. ^ "Raj Bhavsar joins Cirque du Soleil". Full Twist. 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  16. ^ a b "Iris - A Journey through the World of Cinema" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil Press Material. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  17. ^ a b "Cirque du Soleil: IRIS - A Journey Through the World of Cinema - Costumes" (PDF). IRIS - Press Materials. Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-10-13.
  18. ^ a b Raha Lewis (2011-06-16). "First Look: Costumes for Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris' are part of the spectacle". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Maçek III, J.C. (2 August 2013). "From the Zombie Hoards to the Successfully Bankrupt: The First Year of 'The Next Reel'". PopMatters.
  20. ^ "Iris - Music". Cirque Tribune. Retrieved 2012-02-01.

External links[edit]