MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Canadian circus company Cirque du Soleil wants to expand its business in circus-loving Russia and create a permanent presence by 2015, its president told Reuters.
"They (Russians) do not even see us as foreign as they have so much influence on our circus," president and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Lamarre said ahead of Cirque du Soleil's Corteo premiere in Moscow on Saturday.
Lamarre said his confidence in the Russian market stems from Russia's "extremely strong roots in circus."
He wants the Montreal-based company to visit 10 Russian cities annually by 2015, up from the three it is currently touring.
Having first come to the Russian capital in 2009, the fast-moving show is this year in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kazan.
Corteo -- which includes gymnastics on chandeliers, walking upside down and a Russian-speaking dwarf who floats across the audience dangling from helium balloons -- had input throughout from Russian directors, Lamarre said.
Cirque du Soleil, which was founded in 1984, has said it would invest $30-50 million in creating a permanent show in Russia.
"We want Russia to become a country on a par with what we have in the United States and Japan," he said, adding that it will take five years before establishing this sort of presence.
Twenty percent of the company's 1,000 artists are from Russia, Lamarre said, which is the same amount as Chinese.
"Russians are the best performers on the planet. Any time we have a Russian, we take them," he added.
Earlier this year Cirque du Soleil announced plans for a series of shows based on the music and songs of Michael Jackson in 2011 in Las Vegas, following the success of its "Viva Elvis" show there.
Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Steve Addison