Artscapes: A Dazzling “Odysseo” from Cavalia returns to OC

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odysseo_les_voyageursThe big white tents along the I-405 freeway are back, heralding the return of “Odysseo” by Cavalia, the Canadian touring production that marries the equestrian arts, stage arts and high-tech theatrical effects in ways you can only imagine.

The show has often been compared to Cirque du Soleil with horses, but it’s much more than that.

“Odysseo” is a visually mind-blowing and mesmerizing two-hour show that underscores the relationship between horses and their trained human performers.

At the media unveiling prior to last weekend’s official opening, Cavalia invited the Equine Coaching Veterans Program of Hanaeleh and several dozen military veterans to help them introduce the four legged stars of the show.

The Equine Coaching vets work with horses that were rescued, abused or retired from racing programs and help them live a better life. In honor of Veterans Day, they were given a behind the scenes meeting with the cast members—both two and four legged.  

Cavalia founder Normand Latourelle of Montreal was in town for the preview weekend and offered some insights and back story.

The Cirque du Soleil comparison may come from the fact that Latourelle was one of the original founders of Cirque du Soleil.

Latourelle defines “Odysseo” as “a modern marriage between preforming and equestrian arts, and the first and only 6D show in the world.”

So what is 6D?

“There are so many layers, it is like watching a Hollywood movie but with live action,” explained Latourelle. “Almost like 3D visuals but without needing glasses, and you actually feel like you are in the canyon or in the mountains on the stage.”

I reviewed the show when it was here last February, and can attest to his claims. In 120 minutes, you can be transported to the forest, desert, the American Southwest and even an ice cave.

Latourelle said that all computer imagery is hand drawn, then converted to digital, so that everything looks like a painting, rather than a special effect. Likewise, the costumes (365 in all) are all original and not associated with any specific time in history, but are vague and unique. 

“Odysseo” is the second version of Cavalia, and may be the last.

The original show, dubbed “Cavalia,” was the first iteration and launched in 2003. That show no longer tours in the US, but has set records in China and is still running strong after 14 years.

This new incarnation started in 2011. Latourelle feels that this touring production is as good as any permanent show anywhere in the world. He only strives to create a new show if it can be improved upon, but feels that he has reached the pinnacle here.

The two-hour show involves more than 60 horses that perform for 12 minutes at a time. The tone employed between ride and equine is one of mutual respect, kindness, patience and trust. The horses average age is ten. A third are stallions with the remainder geldings.

The cast is international and totals over 120 full time personnel, including a fleet of musicians and singers since all music is performed live and is fluid enough to keep pace with the tempo of each individual show.

The 6,000 tons of dirt holds a 17,500-square foot stage and towards the end is flooded with 40,000 gallons of water, which is recycled.

The tent holds 2,000 people, and usually sells out every performance.

The final question that Latourelle addressed was the most common one he gets, which is, “What is your favorite part of the show?”

His response? “When the audience stands up and cheers—which they do every time.”

Looking for a truly unique holiday gift? You can’t do better than tickets to “Odysseo.” Visit Cavalia.com for more information.

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