Cavalia Conjures Odysseo

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There’s magic under the big white tent.

Ten white Arabian horses dash around a sand-filled stage, saucily shaking heads at one another, occasionally swishing a warning tail while their ears prick forward and back. A young woman gently catches the attention of one and he runs to her and stops for a caress. The others are soon lined up for her attention, too. Soon they move in unison to her command, mostly a turn or slight folding of her body and a step back. They are totally free – no saddles, bridles or halters. Just horses at liberty in a herd, as they are meant to be.

This is the introduction to Cavalia’s Odysseo, which opened in Toronto on April 8, with the last performance scheduled for May 10, 2015. This production debuted in the city in 2012 and has lost nothing of its magic.

While choreographed jumping numbers and trick riding using a variety of horse breeds have children and adults gasping and clapping, the most beautiful spectacle is a performance called Les Anges. Partnered with riders on white horses, four women perform with aerial silks tethered high above the stage, creating beautiful images with their athletic movement and the fabric’s ethereal movement.

Everything under this 125-feet tall White Big Top tent seems magical, perhaps because everything that happens sounds magical. A band of musicians and a talented singer accompany all the action, be it peaceful or at a gallop.

Although the equine antics enthralled the non-horsey in the 2,000-member audience, everyone – even the horsiest fans – wondered at the energy of the gravity-spurning human acrobats from Guinea, West Africa. Their attitude of fun and connection to the audience seems to be part of the total Odysseo experience. Everyone from ticket-takers to ushers steps right up to make sure everyone goes home with a smile.

The deceptively large stage covers 35,000 square feet, raking back to a hillside, where the finale begins with Omério, a white Lusitano (a Portuguese breed) stallion, trotting on the spot. It’s a difficult movement, but Lusitanos and the Spanish breeds often manage it with ease. His rider then guides him though a dreamy dressage sequence – a horsey dance that becomes a water ballet and ends with the whole cast of humans and 30 horses on stage. A uniquely Canadian international extravaganza that originated in Quebec in the mind of artistic director Normand Latourelle.

More than 70 horses live in safe, well-organized stabling under the Cavalia tent and have access to turn out in paddocks. The drizzly cold opening night added a spicy zip to the equine psyche, as changes in weather often do. Amazingly, the horses at liberty at the beginning of the show had only been working together for about two weeks, said one of the grooms. Horses are herd animals and places in their hierarchies sometimes change, thanks to pinned ears and other threatening gestures. Managed well, however, these young animals did just what their trainer asked – it was the veteran that took advantage and briefly ignored her at one point. “He’s was naughty,” said the groom. He’d been doing this the longest and he knows better.” Then she laughed. —Jayne MacAulay

For tickets, visit or call 1-866-999-8111 (every day, from 8AM to 10PM).

Tickets are priced from $34.50 to $139.50 + applicable taxes and fees.

Rendez-Vous package offers the best seats in the house, buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit of the stables after the show. This unique VIP experience takes place in a tent alongside the White Big Top. The Rendez-Vous package prices range from $144.50 to $239.50 + applicable taxes and fees.