Review: Cavalia's Odysseo (Continues into August 2012 in Toronto)

Cavalia - Odysseo
continues into August 2012
at the Port Lands, Toronto

An enchanted evening awaits under the ingeniously designed white big top tent on the Port Lands at the foot of Cherry Street. Cavalia has pulled out all the stops in Odysseo, their second touring show, designed to dazzle and delight with the undeniable beauty of horses, acrobats and a lush set design. The show unfolds in a seamless flow of riders, acrobats and horses with live music that's played from the wings.

Under the tent is tiered seating around a magical stage setting full of Cirque-style bells and whistles, including a carousel that drops from the ceiling, a mountainside, and for the finale, a small lake that fills up as you watch. Video backdrops and curtains add to the multi-dimensional effect, with the stage blending right into the background.

The performers hail from all over the world, including Canada, the U.S., France, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, Poland, New Zealand and Brazil and a troupe of dancer/drummer/acrobats from Guinea who play the kora for good measure. The troupe of 61 gorgeous and talented horses includes a range of breeds- and hours and hours of grooming to keep those long manes and tails tangle free. Interestingly, 22 are stallions and the remainder geldings. Speaking from experience, it's quite unusual to encounter more than 1 or 2 stallions in a stable; they're highly competitive and feisty to say the least. The unusual ratio explains the absence of mares - surely how they keep all those virile males in line.

I studied dressage myself for about 15 years and I know what they made to seem effortless is in fact an immense labour of love. They performed some of the art's more advanced moves, including the half and full pass (when the horse moves laterally as well as forward), passage (a trot with an extended moment of suspension) and piaffe (when he seems to trot nearly on the spot). There was jumping and acrobatic riding, often at what looked like breakneck speed. Most impressive are the choreographed movements of the horses without riders. Despite the occasional skirmish amongst the all-male equine members of the cast, they returned to formation flawlessly.

I'm trying not to be consumed with envy - had I known I could have made a living as a dressage rider, you'd be reading a review from someone else.