Quebec artistic entertainment company Cirque du Soleil has faced tragedy last month as a prominent performer plummeted to her death during a Las Vegas show of ‘Ka’ at the MGM Grand Resort. According to The Montreal Gazette, during the show’s finale, aerialist Sarah Guillot-Guyard had been suspended on a line controlled by remote controls when she fell twenty-five metres to the stage floor. The show was stopped and she was taken to hospital, where she was shortly after pronounced dead. Performances of the show at the resort were cancelled as the death was investigated, however with the Coroner’s report finding that the death was accidental, the twice-nightly performances resumed on July 16. The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to investigate the specific cause of Guillot-Guyard’s fall, and as The Guardian reported, their report could take up to six months to be released. While the ‘Battle Scene’ during which the accident occurred has been the same since ‘Ka’ began in 2006, it has now been replaced by a ‘softer’ scene that will maintain the show’s ninety minute running time. The original scene involved performers scaling a “towering” vertical wall while performing acrobatics and enacting a combat.
With the soaring popularity of the company around the world, the performers and the choreography of Cirque du Soleil have been hailed as incredible, and the New Zealand Herald described the show and its ‘death-defying’ stunts as “radically extending the boundaries of human mobility”. Despite the risky nature of the spectacular acrobatic techniques used in the show, according to The Age, this is the first reported on-stage death in the company’s thirty years of performance.
Guillot-Guyard was reportedly still wearing her safety harness when she landed in front of the shocked audience, and OSHA’s investigation will focus on whether the wire she was attached to was faulty, or incorrectly attached. While the company’s official website describes ‘Ka’ to “defy the laws of gravity”, a spokesperson from the Clark County Coroner’s office told The Age that the company is “very safety-conscious”, and the report would aim to recommend how to prevent such an incident from occurring again.