Normand LaTourelle and Hade I. Photo by JF Leblanc.
Horses in the lake at the end of the show. Photo by Francois Bergeron.
Horses.... I love watching them. At the racetracks here, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, where I can spend hours in the paddocks. I enjoy watching them in my favorite Western movies on TV. I go out of my way to visit a ranch in Riverside, which has a few steeds, and before my body gave in/up I used to have fun riding them. All of them are majestic, from the tiny unruly Western ponies to the full-blooded Arabian racehorses. I once even wrote a movie about them.... The War Horses, which depicted how the Boer War of Africa that was won by the British on a ranch in the American West (when they remounted their cavalry with American cow ponies to combat the hardy African horses of the Boers. True story.)
Rider on two horses. Photo by Pacal Ratthe.
So naturally I made several visits 10 years ago to the wonderful Cavalia show when it played at the Santa Monica pier and then Burbank. That show with its 45 horses has been seen by three million people in over 2,000 performances in 55 cities on three continents, and is still touring the world, currently in Australia. And when I recently heard that the Cavalia people had been touring a new and enlarged 'equine spectacle' called Odysseo, I made arrangements with publicist Tim Choy to interview Normand LaTourelle, the creator of both (and one of the founders of Cirque de Soleil.) What I heard from him knocked me on my rear end in wonder and astonishment. And you can be sure I will be in downtown Burbank (at 777 N. Front St.) on Wednesday, Feb. 27th, when the epic show opens in its huge white tent there for its three-week run through March 16th. Speaking of that tent... we all know that traditional tents have masts, posts, poles, to hold it up. Limiting galloping horses from traveling from left to right on a horizontal path. But Normand told me about the new tent -- the world's biggest! No masts, no poles. It is the size of a NFL football field, unobstructed. Backed by a curved, enveloping Cinerama-like screen the size of three Imax screens side-by-side, with a hillside where the horses could gallop on stage uninhibited. Arches support this new, 10-story-high, White Big Top, opening up the entire interior performing space with... no poles. He told me that the stage easily accommodates a sequence with 32 horses, of the total 67-horse cast, and then there would be a finale with an 80,000-gallon lake created in front of the 2,000 people in the audience. He laughingly said, "It will be an intimate relationship with the performance, like a 3-D experience." Normand went to tell me about his vision for this show about man and horse. "A lone man can scratch out a living, have a meager existence, but partnering with the horse, his horizons infinitely expanded. Travel, agriculture, construction, and movement were possible. The Iron Horse railroad could not have made its way across the country without the real ones."
Girl on horse. Photo by Francois Bergeron.
Guy with four of the 67 horses in the show. Photo by Pascal Ratthe.
Beginning in a misty, enchanted forest where a herd of horses graze and frolic under a sky of rolling clouds and a setting sun, the horses and a cast of 45 embark on a soulful journey together... eye-popping acrobatic displays integrated with dazzling equestrian numbers featuring jumping, dressage and stunt-riding comprise the 2 ½ hour performance. He went on to describe a sequence midway in the first act in which both horses and men simply jump hurdles and "Eventually we found all of the excitement, joy, happiness and finally satisfaction in the act of this physical achievement." But what really excited me was the next statement: "The show travels the globe, from the deserts and savannas of Africa to the American Southwest, the Northern Lights, an ice cave, Easter Island and the universe. It is the most sophisticated touring show in the world!"
Girl and horse. Photo by Pascal Ratthe.
Tim later showed me a review from the Atlanta paper, which said that Odysseo is "the best show since the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening." While the Miami paper said, "If Walt Disney were still alive, he might create a show as magical as Cavalia's new Odysseo... but it wouldn't be better than what the wonderful world mastermind Normand LaTourelle has created under his Big White Top."
Man on horse.
Normand with Gorrion.
Gorgeous horse. Photo by Francois Bergeron.
If you see a white-bearded guy at every show yelling "giddiyap," it will be me.
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