Cavalia’s Odysseo, the equestrian extravaganza that rode into town in January, adds a final week in Vancouver and tallies 6 weeks of performances.
When Cavalia rolled into town some years ago, I got my tickets for opening weekend. I had seen my share of Cirque du Soleil shows, of course, and loved how Cavalia fused jaw-dropping acrobatics with stunts by beautiful Arabian, Criollo and Belgian horses.
This winter, new Cavalia ads started popping up all over Vancouver – on the side of buses, in the pages of newspapers and on billboards. Like its predecessor, Odysseo promised a highly choreographed ode to man and horse, one that fuses equestrian arts, aerialists, musicians, acrobatics, and theatrics inside a 125-foot tall White Big Top set up at the edge of Olympic Village. I get a pair of tickets and decide to bring my horse-loving 8-year-old daughter, Chloe, along for the ride.
Improving on the previous iteration, Odysseo features a fantastic set design, including a 160-degree screen for high-definition projections of beautiful desert landscapes, gorgeous skies, verdant forest with dancing fireflies, and gushing waterfalls. Six thousand tons of dirt, sand, and stone are used to create the 17,500-square-foot stage, which features a main flat area and a hill from which horses walk down. And while the horses (65 of them!) do plenty of walking, they also trot, canter and even perform a synchronized dressage routine. Offstage, musicians play live music of the Celtic New Age-y variety. Yup, you can tell this show was conceived in Quebec just by listening to the music.
The costumes are as impressive as the set design, with ladies dressed in flowing robes that Khaleesi might wear for the dreamier numbers, and more practical outfits the likes of which a sensible girl like Rey in Star Wars might dig. As for the men, well, their outfits were colorful and flowing but the main thing I notice is that they all seemingly got a haircut back in the ’80s and never looked back. Maybe it’s a Quebec thing.
The magic happens when horse and man (or woman) perform together: riders leap onto the horses’ bare backs and perform seemingly neck-breaking feats. They do flips and stand on the stallions and geldings, they serpentine across and under (Oh Em Gee! my daughter squeals at one point) the horse’s backs and bellies. All this they do like it’s literally a walk in the park. The audience’s “Oohs” and “Aahs” reverberate inside the tent.
During the second act, the two-legged performers try to keep up the pace by tumbling and splashing (the arena is flooded with 40,000 gallons of water for the finale) across the dirt stage, bouncing and leaping on stilts, dancing, and twirling while dangling from swaths of white fabric. “They look like angels,” my daughter whispers during one act. For me, the highlight is watching the performers from Guinea flipping across the stage and, later, singing and playing African drums. Their enthusiasm and joy is contagious.
As we walk out of the tent two and a half hours later, Chloe says, “can I take riding lessons?”
What: Cavalia Odysseo
Where: The White Big Top, 299 W 1st Ave
Info: Tickets are priced from $29.50 to $139.50. The Rendez-Vous package ($129.50 to $209.50) offers the best seats in the house, full buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit of the stables after the show. This unique VIP experience takes place in a tent alongside the White Big Top. Special pricing and packages also available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+).