Cirque du Soleil ("Circus of the Sun" or "Sun Circus") is a Montreal-based entertainment company and the largest contemporary circus producer in the world. Located in the inner-city area of Saint-Michel, it was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul on 16 June 1984 by former street performers Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix.

Originating as a performing troupe called Les Échassiers ("The Waders"), they toured Quebec in various forms between 1979 and 1983. Their initial financial hardship was relieved in 1983 by a government grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to perform as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier's voyage to Canada. 

Their first official production Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil was a success in 1984, and after securing a second year of funding, Laliberté hired Guy Caron from the National Circus School to recreate it as a "proper circus". Its theatrical, character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals helped define Cirque du Soleil as the contemporary circus ("nouveau cirque") that it remains today.

Cirque du Soleil expanded rapidly through the 1990s and 2000s, growing from one show to 19 shows in over 300 cities on every continent except Antarctica. The company employs 4,900 people from 50 countries and generates an annual revenue of approximately US$1 billion. The multiple permanent Las Vegas shows alone play to more than 9,000 people a night, 5% of the city's visitors, adding to the over 100 million people who have seen Cirque du Soleil productions worldwide.

The company's creations have received numerous prizes and distinctions, including three Drama Desk Awards; seven Primetime Emmy Awards; multiple Gemini Awards; a Daytime Emmy Award; a Juno Award; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, Cirque du Soleil was awarded the National Arts Centre Award, a companion award of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, and in 2002 was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

On 19 March 2020, responding to the 2019–20 worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Cirque du Soleil announced that all 44 active shows worldwide should be suspended, 4,679 employees, 95 percent of their staff, would be temporarily laid off, effective immediately, and bringing the company into a state of financial collapse with a debt of over $1 billion.

Although it received financial support with a $50 million injection from its shareholders and a $200 million loan from the Quebec government, on 29 June 2020, the company announced that it had filed for bankruptcy protection and was terminating 3,500 employees who had previously been laid off.

According to en.wikipedia