A horse of a different colour enters at full gallop
Cavalia is a must see event
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Friday, Sep 14, 2012 03:36 pm
Running until Sunday, Oct. 14
Big white top
City Centre Airport
123 Ave. and 107 St.
Tickets: $39.50 to $134.50. Special packages $114.50 to $209.50. Call 1-866-999-8111 or online at www.cavalia.net
How often is the Roman Post performed, a flashy trick ride where a standing rider straddles two horses galloping full throttle around an arena?
Not often enough, and especially by a woman if the thunderous applause at Cavalia’s horse-centric extravaganza is any indication.
The daring rider, something you’d expect to see in Ben Hur, was perfectly balanced on the synchronous bouncing backs of two horses while guiding two additional pairs in front – a total of six.
It was an exhilarating moment for Tuesday’s opening night audience sitting on a grandstand under the white big top that has taken up residence at Edmonton’s city centre airport.
Visible from Yellowhead Trail, the Cavalia village is composed of nine tents that span 26,264 feet. The 110-foot high canvas show tent, equivalent to a 10-storey building, is pitched like a multi-turreted sand castle complete with banners flapping in the wind.
Inside the main tent, a 200-foot wide screen, comparable to two panoramic IMAX screens, serves as a background. Projected on the screen was a seamless series of stunning special effects and ethereal images that feature caves, forests in different seasons, Chinese sculpture and a Roman arena.
The elongated arena, unlike most equestrian stages that are round, is 160 feet wide (the width of an NFL football field). It’s covered with 2,500 tons of sand and aggregates that softens the impact for both the humans and horses and muffles the sound of thundering hooves.
Cavalia is a six-year dream project of Normand Latourelle, an impresario who achieved fame as a founder of Cirque du Soleil. His concept was to create a poetic hymn where horses gallop unfettered.
The two and one-half hour production is truly a valentine to the equine world, a tribute recognizing a human-horse bond and the sense of freedom both need to flourish.
The 34 aerialists, acrobats, trick riders and vaulters performed a dizzying array of spins, flips and cartwheels. But there was no doubt the real stars were the 48 stallions and geldings. No mares in this show.
Whether galloping across the stage, wavy manes and tails floating in the air, or standing still nuzzling their trainer after a concentrated vignette, all eyes were on the quadrupeds.
For anyone who knows their Appaloosas from their Percherons or Quarter horses from Lusitanos, (and even if they don’t) this must-see piece of theatre is a revelation.
One of the more sublime vignettes, a segment titled The Discovery, was of a woman gaining the trust of a horse and gently coaxing him to drink water out of her hand. After the vignette, the pool of water disappeared so quickly people wondered if it was real or an intricate illusion.
The magic continues in Carousel, a wintry equestrian ballet, where eight rather noble steeds perform a dressage-inspired dance. Trotting in precise formations to a tune similar to Ravel’s fiery Bolero, the white horses concluded their program crossing one foot over the other moving sideways. Elegant and noble, they charmed the pants off spectators.
The light-hearted fun moments happened during the trick riding where horses race across the stage as riders attempted to grab a white handkerchief off the sand. Completely engaging, this lightning fast competition had riders mounted in every conceivable position grabbing the handkerchief from each other. In a surprise move, one horse grabbed the kerchief in its mouth and beetled across the stage.
For many animal lovers, a horse show of this kind might conjure up images of poorly fed, miserably treated horses. Cavalia is no such thing. It has set a compassionate bar for the 21st century treatment of animals.
The obvious love and care that trainers treat their charges is returned in equal measure through the horses’ obvious loyalty. There were plenty of hugs, kisses and nuzzles to go around and none appeared forced.
To watch these powerful, magnificent creatures – both steeds and artists – accelerate across the stage was a special thing to behold. It wasn’t just the starkly revealed intimate relationship between trainer and animal. Every element was flawless from ingenious special effects and costumes designed with flair to the gypsy music played with grand flourishes.
Go along for the ride. It’s fun.