Acrobat Death Tarnishes Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is answering questions after a performer died during a performance recently in Tampa, Florida. The aerialist, Yann Arnaud, was performing in the company’s VOLTA show, when an error caused him to fall to his death in front of a live audience. Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group expressed shock and remorse: “The entire Cirque du Soleil family is in shock and devastated by this tragedy… Yann had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him.”

Performing troops like this one are tight knit, and performers were devastated by the tragedy. While everyone in their line of work understands the risks, these incidents tend to be rare due to the skill and intense practice that goes into preparing for performances. After Arnaud’s death, the company chose to cancel the final two performances of VOLTA in Tampa.

Speaking to local media about the tragedy, some witnesses said they thought something might go wrong. One fan in the audience, Julien Martinez told a local CNN affiliate that Arnaud had been “straining to hold onto the rope…” just before the fall. “It was awful,” Martinez recalled, “… you heard all the cries of the audience… children freaking out…”

Martinez was not the only audience member left shaken by the incident, wondering if the entertainment value was worth the risk to the performers. That’s a question, fans and organizers say, that should be asked of the performers, not for them.

Many aerialists, either in circus teams or in these kinds of performances love what they do and wouldn’t trade it for anything. After tragedies, even among close friends and family members, the first thing they want to do after paying their respects is to get back in the air or on the wire. That’s exactly what many Cirque du Soleil performers did after acrobat Sarah Guillot-Guyard died after falling during a live show in Las Vegas back in 2013. Safety regulators cited and fined the entertainment group, which settled up before opening the show again.

There is no word, yet, when Cirque du Soleil will begin operations again after this latest tragedy. A statement from the entertainment group said the company is currently “devastated” and “focusing on supporting Yann’s family…as well as the VOLTA team…”

No doubt, this is the time to mourn. But there will come a reckoning, both officially and in the court of public opinion. How the group manages that pressure will go a long way toward ongoing public perception, especially for those like Martinez, who watched it happen.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company’s growth, overseeing more than 275 professionals. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world’s most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine’s Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country’s foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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