Show Review: Wild West show meets Tolkien held over

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Created by former Cirque de Soleil member, “Cavalia” entrances audiences with horse-man relationship.

By Vicki Godal/Special to The Malibu Times

Following sold out shows here, in San Francisco and thus far every city in which it has performed, “Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Man and Horse” has been held over in Glendale until May 31. Using more than 30 horses and 19 riders, “Cavalia” is an equestrian performance where the riders are incidental and the horses are the stars. Each show is a series of horse legends and stories using riders, acrobats and aerial performers on horseback in front of a 200 foot wide screen, which projects more than 24 virtual backdrops per show.

Using a Roman Forum backdrop with an orchestra and singers housed in its upper arches, a story unfolds in which horses are the central characters. The horses welcome the audience by bowing and rearing up on their hind legs. No humans are on the arena floor as the horses run in perfect synchronicity and perform their seamlessly choreographed first piece. The stories change via different backdrops, music and dramatic lighting. The Lascaux Cave backdrop features horse drawings by pre-historic humans during the performance.

Performing seven shows per week in North America’s largest white tent (called the Big Top)and located next to the Glendale Galleria, “Cavalia” is a multi media experience. The 12,720 feet Big Top actually houses four tents including the performance arena and stables. Eight hundred tons of sand are used for the floor of the arena.

One of the three original Cirque de Soleil founders, Artistic Director and President of Cavalia Normand Latourelle describes the show.

“My inspiration is Native American, Western rodeo and English-style dressage riders and acrobats,” Latourelle said.

Using Lusitanos’, Percheron and Belgium draft horses and Quarter horses, Latourelle said, “I explore the relationship between man and horses beginning 3,500 years before the Christian era (BCE).”

For example, horses show the story of the wheel symbolized as an exercise in trust between humans and horses. An acrobat performs on an exercise ball while the horses perform a dance around him.

“Training the horses requires two to four years so the development of Cavalia was really dictated by the horses,” Latourelle explained. During the show, the riders never use whips or spoken commands to communicate with the horses, communication is exchanged through body gestures, facial expressions and inconspicuous sounds by the riders themselves.

Based out of Montreal, Latourelle began working on “Cavalia” shortly after breaking into the United States market with Cirque de Soleil in 1990.

For Cavalia ticket information, contact 866.999.8111 or visit the Web site at www.cavalia.net. Tickets are priced $59 – $79. Children under 12 are $41. Senior and student tickets are on sale Tuesday through Thursday.