The acrobat, a petite young man, balances easily on a big golden ball, feet moving in quick syncopation, the ball rolling beneath his soles, perfectly controlled. A horse strolls on stage to join him, and an intriguing tableau, laced with alluring music, is enacted between acrobat, ball, and horse. Under an enormous white tent that reminded me of the medieval tents you’d see on a battlefield, Cavalia begins.
The horses–magnificent animals–are of different breeds with long noble bloodlines–the Arabian, the Lusitano, the Belgian, the Comtois, the American Quarter Horse, the Paint Horse, the Appaloosa, the Oldenburg and the Warmblood, the Criollo, the Canadian, the Pure Spanish Breed–all geldings and stallions–no mares perform on stage. Apparently mares are too easily distracted, difficult to train, and tend to distract the stallions. The show is a delightful mix of drama and revelry. We laughed when during the Grande Liberte performance one horse comically missed his cue, and had to run to catch up with the rest, the horse mistress’s finger ticking at him in admonishment. The cavalcade circled into a new formation where each horse laid his head on the back of the horse ahead of him, forming an arabesque of horse’s heads and flowing manes. Lovely.
It was a wonderful show–meticulously trained horses performed delicate movements showing artistry, strength, and beauty. Cavalia is the brainchild of a former Cirque Du Soleil executive who noticed that the horses in Cirque’s shows drew lots and lots of attention, and he put together a fabulous entertainment–Cirque Du Soleil starring horses against a background of colorful sets, with acrobats, aerialists, riders and musicians. The Cavalia troop originates in Quebec, Canada, and the equestrian performers come from ten countries, all experts in their disciplines.
My one experience riding a horse was a near-disaster, but fortunately didn’t put me off my affection for horses. Cavalia was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.