ARTS REVIEW

Beautiful horses, magical moments - Cavalia is genuinely entertaining

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2015, 11:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2015, 12:27pm

Cavalia

White Big Top, Central Harbourfront

Reviewed: March 31

This show opens with an interactive trivia quiz with the audience, so here are some fast facts about Cavalia, a large stage production billed by its creator Normand Latourelle as a “magical encounter between man and horse”. It features 40 horses representing 11 different breeds, including Lusitano, Arabian, Appaloosa, quarter horse and Comtois; they come from Canada, Portugal, Spain, France, Australia and the US; the average age of these horses is around nine, and they are all male.

Though they are no doubt the show’s main attraction, these equine performers form only part of a much larger spectacle that also features riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians from around the world. The stage looks deceptively narrow before the curtain rises, but as the performance progresses the audience is surprised by how much depth it has and how versatile and functional the set is.

Like most of these acrobatic shows, there isn’t much of a narrative to it but has a strong theme on the love between human and animal, which is commendable given a good chunk of its audience are likely to be children. So the 90-minute performance, directed by Wayne Fowkes, is divided into segments, alternating between acrobatic and equestrian acts.

The cowboy lasso sequence was fun, while all the other jumps, consecutive back flips, somersaults might seem a tad ordinary to a local audience used to seeing awesome acrobatic feats from across the border. But the aerial act belongs in a class of its own. Alain Gauthier’s stunning choreography, performed by two aerialists around and above a couple of riders who superbly controlled their horses, combined with good lighting, created a scene that looked magical.

The horses were just beautiful. They galloped, trotted, jumped and, occasionally, decided to do their own thing, all to the delight of the audience. No matter how well the troupe had rehearsed, there will always be moments when these animals just put their foot down and refuse to collaborate or take orders. But that is also what makes Cavalia so enjoyable and endearing – it has a quality of rawness and genuineness.

Latourelle is one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, and the music shows that. Performed by a live band, the exotic and mystical-sounding score composed by Michael Cusson blended well with the action on stage and – together with panoramic landscape scenes projected on the backdrop – added atmosphere and sometimes tension to the show.

Act Two (after a 30-minute intermission) was very well paced and the grand finale (I'm not going to spoil it for you) concluded a performance that was at times thrilling but consistently entertaining.

Until May 10