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Cavalia’s ODYSSEO Pure Magic

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By:Bonnie Wurst–mtltimes.ca

 

There are times when creativity, passion and expertise come together to create pure magic – and Odysseo is one of those moments. Cavalia’s Odysseo show has been touring across Canada, Mexico and the United States since its world premiere in 2011.Onthe last leg (or should I say ‘last four legs’) of their North American tour before heading overseas,the spectacular Big Tophas risen once again to grace the skyline of Montreal – you can’t miss itif you have been anywhere near the intersection of the Decarie Expressway and Highway 40. Premiering last Thursday(June 17th) it will berunning until July 19th – andit’s a show you don’t want to miss.

DSC_1994 Odysseo is a ‘theatrical experience, an ode to horse and man that marries the equestrian arts, awe inspiring acrobatics and high-tech theatrical effects. Set under awhite Big Top(equivalent to the height of a 10-storey building) and a stage bigger than the Bell Centre ice surface, audiences are transported around the world as 70 horses and an international cast take you on a journey to a world where fantasy and reality intertwine and the centuries old bond between humans and horses come alive.

Once the show starts, you drift into a dream-like state, a two-hour dream that will ‘move the heart and touch the soul’.The fantasy begins in a misty blue, enchanted forest where horses graze and frolic under a sky of rolling clouds and a setting sun. Then the stage comes alive as a troupe of African acrobats,all of whom hail from the same small island village off the coast of Guinea, perform gravity-defying tumbling and backflips that would be the envy of any Olympic gymnast. They return several times during the show with more than their tumbling and flips, performing musical numbers involving the audience in call and response and dances – and they also offer just the right touch of humor to the production. Urban stilters join them in the first act, reaching incredible heights that will thrill and challenge your senses.

Afterwards the back stage rises and becomes a hill. A group of mounted riders appear on its crest and performa superbly enchantingroutine. You will then be mesmerized by the beautiful liberty number, uniting purebred Arabian horses directed by silent commands from their trainer Elise Verdoncq, who has been called a ‘horse whisperer’ by many.

DSC_2045One of the most spectacular acts is when a full-sized carousel descends from above and on to the stage. Twelve acrobats perform variousroutines on the carousel poles which move up and down and also rotate. It is impressive, other-worldly and will leave you dizzy with delight.

There is western trick riding with horses galloping across the front of the stage as riders execute a vast array of tricks, an act with riders accompanying women aerialists in a stunning silk act and so much more.

Riders and acrobats join the horses on a journey while agigantic video backdrop, three times the size of the largest cinema screens,projects a variety of landscape-style images, leading them from the Mongolian Steppes to Monument Valley, from the African Savannah to Nordic Glaciers and from the Sahara to Easter Island.Just as hypnotizing and integral to the experience is vocalist Anna Laura Edmiston (from Lafayette, Louisiana) who flawlessly lends her angelic voice to the show. Live music created by Michel Cusson, directed by band leader/bass guitarist ÉricAuclair and a group of extremely talented musicians,is also in complete harmony with the production.

The scenes follow the seasons and the show ends in grandiose fashionwith a lake magically appearingon stage – flooded with 300,000 liters of water in just a few minutes. A virtual waterfall appears in the background as horses, riders and artists frolic together and splash about. It is spectacular and as one younger audience member near me said, ‘totally awesome!’and I couldn’t have said it better. (*Spoiler Alert – be prepared for a few splashes if you’re sitting in the front row).

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        Odysseo was conceived by Founder and Artistic Director Normand Latourelle (a pioneer of Cirque du Soleil). Normand has been fully dedicated to Cavalia, instilling his talent, passion and imagination into the productions. In 2007, he received the Ordre national du Québec for his achievements.

The magic created on stage would not be possible without the magic created behind the scenes – by a team of uniquely talented people of whom I must tilt my hat to: Director – Wayne Fowkes, Equestrian Direction and Choreography – Benjamin Aillaud, Set Design – Guillaume Lord, Visual concept – Geodezik, Costume Design – Georges Lévesque (1951-2011) and Michèle Hamel,Hair Designer -Louis Bond, Makeup Designer -Jessica Manzo, Choreography – Darren Charles &Alain Gauthier.

And then the ‘two-legged’ stars; 46 artists – acrobats, aerialists, riders, dancers and musicians representing 11 countries including Canada, the United States, Brazil, France, Guinea (Africa), Poland, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, Japan, and Belgium.

Last, but most importantly are the ‘four-legged’ stars:70 horses that represent 11 different breeds from around the world. All the horses are male – stallions and geldings (no mares)from 7 countries including Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States and Canada. The average age of the horses is 10 with the youngest at 4 and the oldest at 15.

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   The heart of the whole production is truly the inspirational bond between the riders and their horses. As the company states, they ‘foster an environment where patience, trust and deep-seated respect for the four-legged stars come first. Cavalia’s training methods are designed to ensure the horses enjoy training and performing on stage. Trainers pay close attention to the horses in order to ensure that every request is adapted and respectful of what the horses are ready to offer.Horses have taken us to the ends of the earth, enabled us to build bridges between cultures and expand civilization. It is the beauty and harmony of this ancient relationship, the meeting of two worlds – those of human and horse, that inspired the creators of Cavalia’s second show, Odysseo’.It is a show no lover of horses should miss.

Odysseo touches the soul, warms the heart and leaves you with the feeling that all could be good in this world.

For more information and tickets visit www.cavalia.net/en/odysseo or call 1-866-999-8111. Tickets are priced from $52 to $152(+ taxes and fees). The VIP ‘Rendez-Vous’ package prices range from $147 to $262.It is located at the corner of Decarie Blvd & the Metropolitan Autoroute, at 1425 rue Dion in Saint-Laurent. There is ample parking (free) and the site is also close to the Du College metro station.

 

 

 

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