My inbox delivered a delightful surprise this afternoon, a pre-sale announcement for OdysseO by Cavalia. When I saw Cavalia back in 2011, I was so inspired that I wrote this piece to describe it.
If Odysseo is anything like the first show, you MUST go! Enjoy!
Cavalia Captivates Calgary
The first image we see is the birth of a foal and its subsequent struggle to stand on its own four feet. He thrashes and tumbles repeatedly. By the time he triumphs, proudly balancing precariously on his stilt-like limbs, the audience is so invested in his quest they cheer him with a fervor that belies their allegiance to The Horse.
Thus begins the Cavalia horse show, now appearing in Calgary (May 2011), and already extending its Calgary dates.
I assume the name Cavalia comes from cavalier, a horseman, especially a mounted soldier or knight; also related to cavalry, meaning mounted military. The cavalry and, for that matter, the horse, have contributed indelibly to our North American history, especially in Western Canada.
Both my grandfathers cleared and farmed land, using horse-power (a term used still in the automobile industry). My parents both rode horses to school, as did both my grandmothers. I also grew up with horses, (see previous post, Ode to Horses) but I never got to ride mine to school, one of my childhood dreams.
It was on horseback that most of western Canada was explored and “conquered”. Calgary’s most famous annual event is horse-centric: the Calgary Stampede and its various related activities like the Calgary Stampede Parade. Over a thousand horses prance in the parade, not to mention all the bucking horses, cutting horses, and chuckwagon horses doing their part to produce “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”.
So I’m not surprised that local media has reported that Calgarians, indeed, Albertans, are stampeding their way to Cavalia to be captivated by this magnificent animal.
Cavalia was created and directed by Normand Latourelle, one of the original founders of Cirque du Soleil. Past Cirque exposure had us all expecting a high-quality, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring performance and I was not disappointed.
The history of the horse is communicated without words in this two-hour equine celebration, from the horse’s original domestication to its more recent involvement in trick-riding shows. Live music, dance, acrobatics, realistic backdrops and optical illusions weave together with the essence of the horse.
The animals are often “on stage” without halters, bridles and other means of control, yet they “perform” miraculous tasks.
My favourite segment was Liberty (name of which I was advised by my horse-loving niece, whose birthday ten members of our family celebrated by attending Cavalia).
In Liberty, a woman stands in the middle of the ring and somehow cajoles seven unfettered grey/white steeds into moving in magnificent patterns for the pleasure of the audience.
With a slight “sleight of hand” she lines them up with their rumps to the audience and their heads turn back as if to taunt us. One naughty horse takes shortcuts a few times, which only delights the audience, as opposed to marring the perfect performance.
In typical Cirque fashion, there is something going on in various areas of the “stage” at any given moment. I am entranced by a particularly intricate dressage “dance” by six white stallions, when suddenly they become eight. I totally missed the entrance of the two.
The show is infused with humour and poignant moments; and music, from thundering-hooves-music to pensive cello solos and haunting vocals. Vivid costumes and graphics enhance the overall experience.
The star of the show is the horse, depicted in many of its incarnations. One can’t help but leave with a sense of awe in the power and raw beauty of this creation and totally believing the Arabian proverb: The horse is God’s gift to mankind.
My sister and I treated our mother, two aunts, and some of our children and grandchildren to the show, which rendered my otherwise talkative family speechless. I’ve heard, “indescribable” and “dumbfounded”.
The tickets are quite dear, (and the souvenirs will lead you to the brink of bankruptcy) but the production meets and exceeds one’s expectations. We looked at this event as a once-in-a-lifetime (okay, Twice!) opportunity to connect with a creature that has profoundly touched us as individuals, as a family, and as a society.
Go if you can.
Resources and interesting links:
(If you think I have a vested interest in Cavalia, rest assured I only wish I were affiliated with them: I’m sure Cavalia generates healthy profits).
Originally published May 30, 2011. Edited November 27, 2013.