Inspiring dreams of an enchanted world where horses and humans share a bond unlike any other, Cavalia’s Odysseo opened its San Jose engagement the evening of September 14 to a rapturous reception from horse lovers and those who simply couldn’t resist the lure of exceptional entertainment.
At its northern California site, under the White Big Top in San Jose, off Highway 87 at Julian Street, Odysseo marries equestrian and stage arts with high-tech theatrical effects to depict the relationship between horses and humans as they journey through a world of dreams.
Double the size of the company’s original show Cavalia, Odysseo is the world’s largest touring show with 65 horses and 48 riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians performing under the world’s largest travelling tent.
Join this virtual journey through a performance of Odysseo.
Haunting music sets the mood as the curtain parts to reveal a secret forest clearing, peaceful and serene. One lone horse wanders into the clearing, soon followed by another. The strangers meet, become a little acquainted and then seal the friendship with a quiet scratch of each other’s withers.
Gradually, other horses enter the forest to join them, until eight horses fill the enchanted clearing. Humans enter the forest and mingle with the horses, creating a sense of wonder and growing familiarity among horses and humans.
Odysseo’s singer enters the forest as the music becomes an ode to joy. The horses gallop and run, occasionally leaping with joy, as do the humans. Galloping offstage, they leave the audience with a metaphor for lives of complicity and harmony: the bond of a herd in which each individual retains its unique character and expression.
Ethereal bells chime high and sweet as Roman-riding fairies gowned in white trot through the forest, riding in swooping circles and formations close to the audience and then behind the transparent forest curtain.
Pairs of horses travel in unison, guided seemingly without effort by the fairies, to create a sense of another world beyond reality. Through the enchanted forest, they ride in unison, circle about the stage, interacting with each other through movement amid mystery.
Elegant, magical and beautiful, they are a vision of grace and a dream brought to life for just a few moments. Then, they disappear from sight but not from memory.
Ground-based acrobats open this act, running into view, tumbling and becoming human pyramids, playing for joy, clearly enjoying their ability to have fun and engaging the audience in their sense of play.
Acrobats on skyrunners bound into view, the high-tech devices they wear like futuristic leg extensions giving them the ability to jump and run with incredible speed and height.
Soon they are joined by riders galloping onto the stage for an equine version of a village celebration. Action takes over as acrobats tumble over jumps, acrobats on skyrunners leap and bound over them and riders gallop through tight turns and formations to jump poles held by the acrobats.
As the jumps become increasingly challenging, acrobats and horses alike celebrate life itself as they push their abilities as far as they will go.
As the curtain opens, a woman kneels onstage in a glowing circle of light in the forest clearing. She is joined by nine white Arabian horses who gather around her in a moment as tender as it is beautiful. With barely visible signs or commands, she communicates with them in a demonstration of liberty that evokes a sense of freedom as well as beauty.
Circling, changing gaits, changing directions and whirling around in unison, the horses clearly enjoy their romp together. Equally clearly, the audience enjoys the horses’ individual personalities, as one cheeky guy makes faces at his play mates and another turns his head to watch the audience as he canters past.
Turning down the energy level, the horses gather around their trainer for caresses and subtle commands – slight hand signals and whispered directions – to line up and then turn slightly to rest their heads on their neighbors’ backs. It’s a scene of beauty and emotion the audience clearly appreciates.
As the forest curtain draws back, a background vision of Easter Island totems grows mysterious and menacing and the sky swirls with changing cloud formations.
Riders appear at the crest of the hill and descend to traverse the barren steppes below until 16 horse-and-rider pairs fill the stage and give the illusion of riding across country.
A moving visual feast, they ride intricate patterns that change direction and size, larger circles that separate into smaller circles, intersect each other and then merge again into one, and form lines that cross the stage in patterns that bring horses within inches of collision.
In perfect symmetry, the horses form a gigantic pinwheel that spans the width of the stage, in which the center horses merely turn in place while the horses at the outside of the pinwheel gallop.
Filled with a kaleidoscope of movement and color, the travelers evoke the nomadic traditions of another place and time.
A night sky of northern lights and shooting stars sets the mood for drama and mystery. From high above the stage, a fantastical carousel descends, adorned with white horses that evoke the living equines of Odysseo.
Creating a poetic dance as their movements take them up and down the poles, the acrobats depict emotions and relationships through their poetry in motion, strength and grace, turning a carousel ride into a tale of human encounters as old as time and as fresh as each nightfall.
As the acrobats recline upon their carousel horses for rest and then sleep, peace prevails as the carousel drifts upward in a return to its realm of fantasy.
Excitement takes over as a drummer and the ground-based acrobats return to the stage, where a low wall defines the circular ring for Cossack riding. One after another, horse-and-rider pairs gallop onto the stage to perform heart-stopping tricks that elicit gasps from the audience.
Each rider is more daring than the last: Vaulting on and off a galloping horse, twisting and turning to ride backwards then forwards again. Lying backwards across the saddle, head and arms hanging down one side and legs hanging down the other, relying completely on balance and trust in the galloping horse.
Most breath-taking of all: going from sitting atop the galloping horse, under its belly to sitting atop the horse again. There’s no shortage of adrenaline on stage or among the audience.
All is calm as the audience settles into their seats after intermission and serene music fills the air. The curtain opens on a pre-dawn hillside where horses and humans are lying down asleep. A musician plays atop the hill, while gradually horses and people awake to greet the day.
Horses and humans journey together, walking the stage in patterns that become increasingly complex, then forming small herds of three or four horses that trot in circles and patterns, changing direction and pirouetting, then forming a pinwheel of horses at liberty, along with the humans guiding their movements from the ground.
Then horses and humans exit the stage to the sound of thunder and rain as a new atmosphere approaches.
Rain falls while aerialists play on their hoops suspended from the ceiling. By themselves and in pairs, their movements depict a dance among the clouds. Their grace resembles a ballet in the air, while their strength and balance seem to defy gravity.
As the aerialists twirl high above, a pair of white Arabian horses gallop around the stage and the rain pours down to the sound of thunder.
Call of Africa
After the storm, a drummer appears, spotlighted in the darkness. Gradually the stage grows lighter, revealing the golden African veldt. Other drummers and dancers emerge to express the rhythms and joy of life.
Seasons change on stage as the African veldt turns green and the acrobats jump and tumble as if showing off to each other. Engaging the audience, they split up to see who can inspire their section of the audience to be the loudest in a call-and-repeat contest.
“O walou guere moufan!” echoes across the stage, meaning “No more war on earth!”
As the season changes to winter, a chill seems to pervade the atmosphere. The stage transforms into an ice cave, with walls of stalactites like giant icicles descending from the ceiling.
Roman riders dressed in white ride through this coldly beautiful scene, guiding their horses across the stage, uphill through the ice and back to cross the stage in a setting as pristine as it is serene.
Trotting or cantering, riding the perimeter of the stage, up the hill and down, and in figures like circles and serpentines, they create an indelible image of grace and beauty.
Four white silk-clad angels ride onto the stage, riding pillion behind their cavaliers who are mounted on elegant grey Spanish and Lusitano horses. Only as the angels rise upward does it become clear that their silks are not costumes but aerial silks.
High above the stage, the angels wrap and unwrap themselves in silk to create extraordinary scenes of beauty. On the ground, cavaliers and their elegant equine partners keep pace with the circling angels above, using the silks to help guide and support their aerial angels.
Balletic arabesques grace the airspace overhead while below, trot turns to canter and then to gallop, to whirl the angels ever faster through the firmament. Gradually their flight begins to slow, the cavaliers canter off stage, and the angels ride their silks to the ground. Silks flutter, the curtains close and the audience sighs.
The Great Adventure
As the curtain opens, a waterfall appears high above the hill behind an elegant baroque horse and rider who appear in silhouette. To rhythmic Spanish flavored music, their haute école movements of piaffe and passage keep tempo.
Other riders appear in front of the waterfall and flow down the hill to gather where a lake has appeared while all eyes were riveted on the performance in front of the waterfall.
Cantering down the hill, the haute école horse pauses before the lake, paws the air and then enters the lake. What occurs next is pure poetry: cantering through the water, performing two- and three-time tempi changes, pirouettes, piaffe, passage, Spanish walk and Spanish trot.
As they continue to piaffe in the center of the lake, the other horses and riders – and horses at liberty – gallop through the water, around the stage, up the hill, and off stage.
Alone again, the haute école rider presents her horse to the audience with an affectionate caress well earned, and thunderous applause fills the air. As they whirl to gallop off stage, there’s more than one horse lover in the stands wiping away tears at the beauty of their performance.
Odysseo, the Finale
As acrobats and aerialists gather on the hill, they are joined by horses and riders who gallop through the lake on their way to the finale. There’s a special feeling rippling through the audience: elation at the incredible performance coupled with sadness that this particular performance is at an end.
The good news is that there are many more performances ahead for Odysseo, in San Jose and after that, Irvine. Odysseo is an enchanted world that can be experienced again and again.
Tickets for San Jose are on sale now for performances running through October, as are tickets for Irvine which opens November 16 and runs through the holidays. VIP tickets for both locations entitle holders to visit the stables as the horses return to their stalls and a late night meal. These and other tickets can be purchased online at www.cavalia.net or by calling 1-866-999-8111.