I remember when I saw the massive tent being constructed at the Loop 202 and McClintock Drive. I was immediately curious. It turns out I would soon be sitting inside, taking in one of the most incredible shows I’ve had a chance to attend. Cavalia Odysseo is not something you watch; it’s something you experience and as I found out, it all starts with the beacon that is the huge tent.
Cavalia Odysseo exists on a performance field all by itself. Literally. It’s not really fair to call it a Vegas-level show because it encompasses so much more. It is orchestrated as 14 acts with French titles, each showcasing horses. There are horse trainer/performers, aerialists, acrobats, dancers, musicians and an incredibly talented vocalist. I particularly liked that the stage was obscured from the attendees as we took our seats. It kept everything wrapped in mystery. Then, a series of fun and educational trivia bits associated with the show were projected on the stage curtains, engaging the audience immediately.
The opening act “Troupeau” was the presentation of many of the show’s horses in a natural, forest-like setting that presented an ethereal and almost mythical quality as we got to see the horses and their human co-stars. The addition of a massive curved video screen behind the hilly set piece served to create a variety of landscapes and seasons throughout the show. Two horses engaged in a vigorous tongue bath, much to the delight of the audience. It also served as a reminder that although the horses are trained and very majestic, they certainly have a playful side and minds of their own.
Next was the “Les Fees” act. Five performers standing with one foot atop each of two horses positioned side-by-side impressively maneuvered their equines in stunning fashion. The “Fete du Village” pitted jumping equines against human tumblers and performers equipped with SkyRunner foot springs. It was a fun and playful act that was a thrilling look at human vs. animal competition.
“Liberte” was a soothing and majestic look at how one trainer can peacefully command eight horses at once to work together. Again, a few of the horses had some other ideas during the act, creating humorous moments that the audience seemed to appreciate. Ultimately, the trainer was a consummate professional, demonstrating patience and skill as he got the group of equines to finish in synchronicity.
The “Les Voyaguers” brought more than a dozen colorfully costumed trainer/performers out in a beautifully choreographed number that showcased the skills of the horses and their riders. The chorus line-style sidestep of the horses was nothing short of mesmerizing.
Next was “Carosello,” a living carousel where pole performers were gracefully delivered out to the set piece which descended from the big top’s ceiling. Men and women displayed strength and elegance as they spun, climbed and moved through every area of the horse-themed carousel. Beautifully choreographed, the act looked like it belonged in a movie.
It was time to get crazy with stunts during “Nomades.” Stunt riders jumped off and then spun back atop their horses as they tore a circular path around the massive ring left behind by the living carousel act. I almost couldn’t watch as one rider maneuvered from the top, to the underbelly, to back in the saddle as his horse ran full speed. Of course, he made it all look like a piece of cake. It was thrilling to see the capabilities of the horses and bravado of the riders who all make it look so easy.
After a 30-minute intermission, the curtain pulled back to reveal a dozen horses lazily lounging with their humans in a field while having a relaxing day. One by one, the horses arose and joined their trainer for a spirited jaunt around the ring with their horse friends. The act gave me a sense of how humans and horses might act in nature if just left to their natural roles.
“Tempete” saw a group of men and women aerialists take to hoops that soared around the big top. With impressive strength, grace and agility they spun, flew and posed with an impossible ease that surely only comes with an incredible amount of training and a no-fear attitude.
“Appel d’Afrique” was my favorite human act. A group of performers used a variety of percussion instruments in impressive fashion as they tumbled and led an audience competition as we chanted, “O walu guere moufin!” which means, “No more war!” in English. It was an upbeat act with a compelling message that appeared to truly resonate with the audience.
The performers with flowing gowns standing atop two horses returned briefly in “Paseo” which ushered in the breathtaking act of “Les Anges.” A group of four female aerialists were escorted out on horseback and hoisted in to the heavens to perform high in the air with dramatically long white silks. What I found most impressive were performers on horseback worked on the ground to assist the aerialists with their elegant, yet daredevil moves and the horses didn’t miss a beat, nor did their trainers. It was the most illustrative example of human/equine collaboration and clearly demonstrated an incredibly high level of skill by all involved.
For the grand finale, the lower stage began to slowly flood as a gorgeous white horse and rider emerged at the top of a scenic hill accompanied by a waterfall landscape via the massive video screen. The horse galloped, pranced and danced as the rider showed perfect control over his equine partner. Finally, a video illusion brought the on-screen waterfall to life as it visually snaked its way into the lower stage which was now filled with water. The horses came running through the water in a natural behavior display that was stunning. Then, one by one, all the individual performers, singer, trainers and horses returned to the stage for their finale entitled, “Odysseo.” It was as beautiful a show as I’ve ever seen and I cannot wait to see what Cavalia does for its next show incarnation.
Cavalia just announced that it has added additional shows and will now run through April 2 under the white tent at the 202 and McClintock Drive in Scottsdale. For additional information or tickets, visit cavalia.com.