Cavalia Conjures Odysseo
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.
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 cavalia.net or call 1-866-999-8111 (every day, from 8AM to 10PM).