By Patti Schofler
For a decade, from when 15-year-old Chelsea Jordan first laid eyes on Cavalia, the Montreal company’s original and eponymous production, she followed it closely with dreams to one day be part of something as magical.
Then came to life Odysseo by Cavalia, the latest production from Normand Latourelle that is even more spectacular and pushes the limit of entertainment. As confirmation that dreams really do come true, Chelsea found her chance with this unique theatrical extravaganza. As her riding and her love for adventures and learning grew, as if pre-destined, the two merged and today the Washington State rider is performing in Odysseo – what she calls a show of a lifetime – opening in a few weeks in Ventura County.
Odysseo – the world’s largest touring production presented under the world’s largest traveling tent – brings more than 110 horses and artists to tell the story of the horse and human journey through nature, marrying enchanting equestrian arts, breathtaking stage arts and unique high-tech theatrical effects. The show will have its premiere on November 11 under its signature White Big Top located in Camarillo, right off Santa Rosa Road on US 101.
Odysseo’s White Big Top is the size of an NFL football field. The 17,500-square foot stage, larger than a hockey rink, offers a vast playground for the 65 horses of 12 different breeds. The grandiose stage also presents incredible large-scale staging, mesmerizing spectators of all ages.
“As an artist and a rider, I was fascinated by how this company combines equestrian arts with dance and music and visual arts to create this beautiful world on a humongous stage. And I fell in love with the joy and freedom the horses express on stage. No two shows are alike when you have horses on stage at liberty to be their own creatures,” says Chelsea about joining the international company.
In this world of Odysseo, the horses and riders gallop on a real mountain, three-stories high and created form 10,000 tons of rock, sand and dirt. They play through a 40,000-gallon lake made of recycled water that appears on stage as if by magic. Aerialists fly through the sky as if they have wings and perform acrobatic feats on a life-size merry-go-round with amazing athleticism.
A screen three times the size of an Imax screen transports audiences on a journey around the globe, treating them to the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Horses, riders, acrobats, live musicians and a vocalist embark on a soulful journey from the Mongolian steppes to Monument Valley, from the African savannah to Nordic glaciers, from the Sahara to Easter Island.
“What drew me to the show was my interest in the world and people of different cultures,” says Chelsea who spent two years in the Peace Corps stationed in Botswana. “I work with people of 13 different nationalities, different languages and different schools of thought about horse training.”
But mostly, she was drawn to the stage, the playground for the horses. “Odysseo celebrates freedom and liberty as the basis of all our horse training. And because of that, Cavalia is known for the deep connection between horses and humans. Allowing, encouraging, the horses to play and express themselves on stage means that every night is different because the horses have the freedom to get creative too.
“We don’t put the horses in a training box. We listen to what they are telling us and go with it. Our live orchestra improvises with them and those of us on stage channel that energy. I didn’t know how to do this before I joined Odysseo.”
It all came about as if it was meant to be. After she finished her master’s degree in international environmental policy last year, Chelsea was searching for a job. A friend told her about Odysseo’s casting call in Portland, near her hometown of Camas, Washington. “The next day a friend videoed me doing various stunts on horseback. The show called me back right away and invited me to spend a week at the White Big Top riding with them, to see how I fit.”
When word came of her acceptance, it was like falling in love, she says. “I was so excited that I was crying and shaking. It was the feeling of your biggest dream come true. I pinch myself every day.”
In Ventura County, Chelsea, along with five other Roman riders dressed in flowing white costumes, will create the fairies scene as they take 12 horses through complex figures. She then jumps off the two horses, makes a quick costume change and boards her jumping horse for her favorite scene, the Village Celebration. “I love this high energy act. It represents villages coming together and having a jumping competition with riders on horses, stilt walkers, and our ground-based acrobats. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
From there, she changes to a different horse and a new costume to join 15 elegant nomad riders dressed in robes of rich reds and browns who rise over the crest of a three-story hill and journey through green rolling hills, before a background of fog and roiling clouds.
Soon she joins performers and 32 horses in an African desert set for the largest liberty act ever staged. Her evening ends with a splashing finale as the stage become an actual lake for horses and humans.
Chelsea’s day begins around 9:00 a.m. at the White Big Top stable to care for three of the show’s 65 equine performers: Limeño, a Spanish Purebred who she rides in dressage and Roman riding; Lawson, a Quarter Horse and part of her liberty team; and Utah, a Thoroughbred Paint jumping horse.
“I have a very special connection with Lawson. He’s very smart, a little stubborn and silly. One day I was walking through the stable, not paying attention to him, and he whinnied to me. That was it. After that we were really connected. I have such fun playing with him, especially at liberty. The horses are taught to join us, free, without ropes or tack. They know their names, they know when to come, without equipment.
We feel and we know they are comfortable with us, and vice versa.” “When we play, we can get silly, run around, change direction, and I give him scratches. We find connection with them by mutual enjoyment in what we do with them. When you get on stage with your horse, and he’s running with you and bucking, having a good time, that is the ultimate success.”
Tickets for Odysseo are available at www.cavalia.com or by calling 1-866-999-8111. For a limited time only, up to 15% discount is applied automatically for online and phone transactions for ticket purchases. For a memorable outing, the Rendez-Vous package offers the best seats in the house, a full meal buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and best of all, an exclusive visit to the stables after the show to meet the four-legged stars!
Are you ready to be completely mesmerized?