First some background. When Cavalia burst onto the scene in 2003, it was unlike any other show. The spectacle under the Big Top merged horses, riders and acrobats in the most ingenious way. Its founder, Norman Latourelle, had been with Cirque de Soleil so he understood “big”. Toronto was the first stop outside of Quebec, and this city’s enthusiastic response crowned Cavalia’s reputation. As a side note – remember the sponsorship scandal that helped bring down the Liberal government? When I interviewed Latourelle on that first Toronto sojourn, he told me that it was sponsorship money that helped him create the show, so clearly some funds went to artists and not just into corrupt pockets.
There are two shows under the Cavalia Entertainment banner – Cavalia and Odysseo. The first was created in 2003 and explores the special bond between man and horse, while Odysseo, which debuted in 2011, presents the dreams of horses. It is a much reworked Odysseo that is now back in town. The point is, I have now seen both shows twice, and repeats do not dim the lustre. Each time they become more beautiful and wondrous. The miraculous fusion of set, slighting and projections transform each new scene into another part of the world, from Mongolian steps to African savannah. When the forest frontdrop opens up, and the horses and riders come over the hill, it truly is a thrilling moment.
Of course there are trick riders, and exciting tumblers and acrobats, but the heart of the show is the horses and riders making their gorgeous patterns. A cadre form a pinwheel, a single woman performs a stunning dressage, a combination of riders and acrobats create a dreamlike sequence surrounded by floating silks, a female whisperer manoeuvres 12 horses with gentle commands. Each vignette is a perfect homage to man and horse.
From eye-popping to magical, Odysseo (and for that matter, Cavalia) will never become, been there/done that entertainment. In short, Odysseo is enchanting, and one never tires of spectacle that is a non-stop feast for the eyes and the heart.
(Odysseo continues at the Big Top in the Portlands until May 10.)