André Simard, C.M.

Saint-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec

Achievements and contributions

A true icon of the circus arts, André Simard took part in a number of disciplines, notably as an elite international gymnast, as a student and eventual coach at the Institut des arts appliqués et graphiques de Montréal, as a trainer at the École nationale de cirque de Montréal and as an acrobatic designer. 

An international artistic gymnast for 12 years, André Simard is a three-time Canadian men’s all-around champion and a veteran of two world championships and the Munich Olympics. Following his successful career, he devoted himself to training gymnasts. In 1976, he oversaw the training venues at the Montréal Olympic Games. A year later, he was awarded the Air Canada trophy for coach of the year. In 1988, he coached his men’s team to 8th in the world at the Seoul Olympics in Korea, the highest result the team had ever achieved.

From here, André launched himself into the circus arts, training hundreds of circus artists and designing or contributing to several dozen aerial acts at Cirque du Soleil and elsewhere in the world. By brilliantly blending his three worlds, he elevated the flying trapeze to a higher level internationally. His 1989 invention, the safe elastic extension cord, is one of his major technical contributions to the discipline of contemporary aerial circus arts.

André Simard has been working with Cirque du Soleil since 1987. He created a flying trapeze act for the show Nouvelle Expérience, which triggered a real revolution in high-flying aerial movement. The acrobatic virtuosity of the artists, in a room or under the big top, took on the look of a fluid ballet under his direction. Between 1989 and 2000, 13 of his choreographies for Cirque du Soleil, the École nationale de cirque de Montréal and his own artistic company, Studio de création les gens d’R, received awards at festivals that bring together the best circus artists in the world. André and his artists have received 18 international awards.

I was born and raised in the poor French-speaking neighbourhood of Rosemont in the post-war years. I had the good fortune to be mentored by Father Marcel de la Sablonnière. From him, I learned generosity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, courage, hard work and perseverance, and I became a man of integrity and of heart. My professional life has taken me all over the world and allowed me to form friendships wherever I have travelled. All my life, I have given the best of myself unconditionally to my athletes, student artists and employers. I am very proud of that. I would especially like to thank Jean-Paul Marcil and Richard Montpetit, who guided me throughout my career as a gymnast, and all those who have accompanied me along the many paths my life has taken.

André Simard