I have never seen anything like Cavalia’s Odysseo, and I would definitely see it again. Playing in Toronto until June 10th, this show creates an acrobatic circus wonderland…with horses. Um, what? Amazing.
The stage under the world’s largest touring big top is phenomenal – it really takes you to all the faraway places that set the scene for the incredible stunts (desert, Easter Island, jungle, mountains, Africa, the Snowy Great North). The acrobats, musicians and of course, the gorgeous horses, were incredible. The horses are trained to perform without saddles or harnesses – there were many horse whisperer-like moments, where a beautiful fairy lady would raise her hand and the horses would halt or turn on command, canter away in a circle, roll on the ground, kneel! (not one, but 12!) Ah-mazing!
Cavalia is a Canadian company from Montreal. What’s with Quebec ruling the new-age circus biz? This is the second show using a new state-of-the-art tent that boasts zero pillars to obstruct audience views. All the support is on the outside, so there are no bad seats in the tent. They also use dust-free soil. Anyone who rides knows the ring gets so dusty you sometimes can’t see to the other side: this was not an issue at all. The tent, in fact, didn’t smell very much like horse in general. I love the smell of manure, but that’s good factor for those who think horses stink.
I spoke to a few groomers after the show and got some interesting insight. One girl is training to be a bareback rider and carousel artist. She’s starting from the bottom as a braider, but gets to train and ride during the day. The trainers and artists always work with the same horses in order to build the bond and trust that is so important in a show like this. I asked her when she joined the show and she happily replied “One week ago.” Not bad for just joining the circus! I would have thought the bottom was mucking out the stalls.
Cavalia believes in an all-natural approach for training, riding and grooming the horses. They are all ridden on a very loose reign (picture the opposite of dressage). Manes are left to grow as long as they naturally would. Some were almost down to the ground, like Rapunzel. Acrobats wore wild hair with teased curls and dreadlocks here and there.
There are a group of tribal men from Guinea who have jump offs against the horses. The horse would jump over something and the men would follow with a flying summersault or back flip over the same height. There were a few times where the audience held their breath in fear of witnessing a disaster, which thankfully never happened: they never even landed a triple back flip, summersault, flip in a pile of poop.
One guy (think Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings) flipped around the horse (no harness, under his belly and back up the other side) while at a terrifying gallop. You could see the hooves grazing the man’s head for the longest 10 seconds of my life. When he made it the entire audience cheered like crazy. Total adrenaline rush!
For the finale, they flood the stage and herds of horses gallop around splashing through the water. There’s something about horses playing in the water that is just so much fun to watch. Odysseo was an incredible experience.
For tickets to Cavalia’s Odysseo, click here.