Story: More than 30 artists, acrobats, dancers, riders and musicians from Canada, France, Belgium, Morocco, Poland, Moldavia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and the United States perform with four dozen horses representing 10 different breeds in a two-act extravaganza conceived by the folks behind Cirque du Soleil.
The Pure Spanish breed represents nearly one-half of all equines on stage, but there also are quarter horses, Lusitano, paint horses, Percherons, Appaloosas and a Comtois, Criollo, Warmblood and miniature horse which perform. The script loosely follows the evolution of the relationship between horse and human through the millennia.
Highlights: The venue of Cavalia is as ambitious as the equestrian abilities on display. The White Big Top is 110 feet high and utilizes 71,400 square feet of canvas as it spans more than 26,000 square feet. A 210-foot wide screen serves as backdrop for video projections and special effects, including lavish holograms of elegant horses that seem to glide across the screen. The stage, which is equivalent in width to a regulation football field, accommodates 2,500 tons of sand and dirt. In the makeshift Cavalia village, stables housing the equine stars comprise more than 16,500 square feet.
Other Info: Cavalia has toured to more than 40 cities throughout Canada, the United States and Europe since it debuted in 2003. The traveling show, as production notes state, marries “the equestrian arts, stage arts and high-tech theatrical effects at never-before-seen levels.”
While the gymnasts, acrobats, riders et al are immensely talented, their theatrics are reminiscent of routines you may have seen before in circuses or other locales. One particularly impressive scene comes at the end of the first act, when two women bringing to mind Camelot’s Queen Guinevere in appearance and costume ride a pair of luxurious white horses who appear to dance in unison as they approach each other. The beauty and ability of the handsome animals indeed are stunning to behold.
The four dozen horses in the show, all of whom are male, in tandem with their human co-performers delighted a packed house of about 2,000 on opening night. Normand Latourelle, founder, president and artistic director of Cavalia, originated the concept of the two and one-half hour presentation.
He is ably joined by a cohesive creative team that includes equestrian choreographers Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado, costume designers Manon Desmarais and Mireille Vachon, lighting designer Alain Lortie, set designer Marc Labelle, composer Michel Cusson, director and images and projection designer Erick Villeneuve, equestrian director and choreographer Benjamin Aillaud and artistic coordinator and choreographer Alain Gauthier.
Whether watching a rider jump from a pair of galloping horses over a bar and then land again on their backs, or observing an acrobat balance on a giant ball as he engages the attention of an inquisitive horse, or seeing a number of riders with teams of horses compete in a makeshift race around the circular performing area a la Ben Hur, Cavalia offers a visitor to its big top a panoply of visual and physical dexterity by both humans and horses.
While the music can range from inspired to banal, and the presentation can be repetitious, there’s no denying the talent and dedication of everyone involved in the execution of this homage to humanity’s trustworthy and devoted equine comrades in both work and play.
Group: Touring Company
Venue: Under the White Big Top, South 7th and Cerre Sreets
Dates: Through April 8
Tickets: From $54.50 to $189.50 plus applicable fees, special pricing for groups, children and seniors; contact 1-866-999-8111 or cavalia.net
Photos courtesy of Cavalia