Cirque du Soleil Acrobat Falls to Death on 'Vertical Stage'—Is It Too Dangerous?

The first onstage death for the prolific circus company came after a performer slipped out of her safety wire and dropped into an open pit. In a sad twist, the show in which she was performing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, , bills itself as "a spectacular tale that defies the laws of gravity."

This article is from the archive of our partner .

A Cirque du Soleil performer died Saturday after slipping out of her safety wire and dropping into an open pit. In a sad twist, the show in which she was performing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, , bills itself as "a spectacular tale that defies the laws of gravity." 

Sarah Guyard-Guillot, a Paris-born performer, was a mother of two young children and had been an acrobatic performer for more than 22 years, the Las Vegas Sun's John Katsilometes reported. Her death was the first onstage one for the prolific French-Canadian circus company. In a statement posted on Facebook, Cirque founder Guy Laliberté said: 

I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news. Sassoon was an artist with the original cast of KÀ since 2006 and has been an integral part of our Cirque du Soleil tight family. We are reminded, with great humility and respect, how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family.

According to the Sun's Katsilometes, Guyard-Guillot was one of the performers "suspended by a wire from the show's vertical stage in the show-closing Final Battle scene." Though performers are wearing harnesses that attach to cables meant to keep them safe, Guyard-Guillot became disconnected from her safety wire and fell. Though Katsilometes reported that she fell at least 50 feet, a commenter on the article debated that:

There is nothing speculative in this article, although the fall distance stated isnt correct. 
We were sitting dead center in the 2nd section and watched it happen. The stage was completely vertical and she was either above the top of the stage or climbing over the top. At first it looked like a controlled descent and she made one cartwheel rotation but she picked up speed and disappeared into the pit below. All motion on stage stopped but the music played for a little while. When the other performers started looking down it was obvious that something wasn't right. Then she started making horrendously painful sounds, the music cut out and her screams were the only noises coming from the stage. We knew it was bad when they said the show had to stop but none of my group imagined we'd find out it resulted in her death. 

After the fall, the audience was ushered out and a recorded announcement offered refunds or vouchers.

You can see an example of how 's vertical stage works here:

The tragedy came on the same night that Cirque du Soleil was celebrating the opening of another one of their shows in Vegas, Michael Jackson ONE. Katsilometes reported on Thursday that on Wednesday a performer in that show "fell to the stage and was taken away in a wheelchair." Though it is not surprising, considering the feats the acrobats are expected to perform, that Cirque shows have had injuries, Guyard-Guillot's death brings to harsh light the dangers which they undergo on a regular basis.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.