The award-winning Canadian circus company, Cirque du Soleil, returns to London for the seventh year running in January. One of the company's most popular shows, Saltimbanco, will have a limited run at the Royal Albert Hall from 7 to 26 January 2003. Tickets for the fourth week of the run, held over to manage demand, have now gone on sale.

Conceived as an antidote to the violence and despair of the 20th century, Saltimbanco is billed as a "celebration of life". It offers up a new vision of urban life, one of optimism and joy, kaleidoscopically conveyed through voice, movement and music.

Amongst the dare-devil and highly skilled acts comprising Saltimbanco's circus display are: bungee, Chinese poles, Russian swing, juggling, trapeze, double wire, diabolo, adagio and a variety of other clowns, acrobats and dancers.

Cirque du Soleil was established in Quebec in 1984 by a troupe of street performers. Since then, it has grown to employ over 2,000 people (500 of them performers) presenting seven shows across four continents. To date, the company has sold more than 30 million tickets for its shows, which blend traditional circus skills with street entertainment and big-budget effects.

At one point, the company had plans to build a permanent London base on the site of the derelict Battersea Power Station, where last autumn they presented a sell-out season of their show Quidam in their "Grand Chapiteau" big top. Those plans were abandoned in December 2001.

For further information on the 2003 season of Saltimbanco, visit the Cirque du Soleil website.

- by Terri Paddock