Cavalia is a dream of horses.
Black ones, white ones, bays, grays, buckskins, chestnuts, even the occasional paint. Their noses are nobly Roman or daintily dished. Their manes drape like fairy cobwebs and their necks are proud and powerful, like a steed out of “The Lord of the Rings.”
They are, in a word, breathtaking.
Sometimes, they race around the stage without saddle, bridle or rider, as unfettered as God made them. Other times, they’re like moving platforms, the flesh-and-blood base for some fancy stunt riding. A petite blonde dressed in New Age/ Road Warrior motley, commands a small herd to rear in unison. Or asks them to take a break, standing stock-still with their heads “casually” draped over another’s neck.
Sometimes they perform haute ecole (you’ve seen Lipizzaners do it) or dressage (you’ve seen it at the Olympics.) One gentle giant, a Belgian or a Percheron, I’m guessing, merely canters steadily round a ring while a gaggle of fearless young men and women descend on him from the rafters. Or jump over him. Or balance on his back. Or balance on the top of the head of a rider who is balancing on his back.
“Cavalia,” which has been around since 2003 (though this is the first time they’ve gotten around to Atlanta), is the brainchild of one of the founders of Cirque de Soleil. In essence, it’s much the same thing — balancing acts, acrobatics, flying acts — but with equines in the mix.
What “Cavalia” has done so brilliantly is bring some New Age wonder to the sort of equestrian acts that have been around for ages. And the new approach helps us see things with new eyes.
Forty years ago, we watched some Barnum & Bailey showgirl in a tight spangled outfit raise a dozen or so horses on their haunches, and then, too, they were gaudily decked out with plumes and sequins. (And the act was called Liberty Horses instead of Grande Liberte.)
A band of brothers (show-wise, if not by blood), ride Hussar style, one foot on each of two horses and gallop at full speed around the arena. One even has the confidence — and showmanship — to take one of his hands off the reins and blow a kiss to a lovely young blonde in the audience. Again, this sort of risky stunt riding has been around a long time, but the “Cavalia” troupe brings a new energy to it.
Plus, they know most of us haven’t seen anything like this in years — back when we were young or we took our own young to see the elephants and the high-wire walkers. But with lions and tigers and bears to look at, the horses were almost second-rung excitement. “Cavalia” puts them back here they belong: front and center.
I’d eagerly sit through this two-plus hour entertainment again (and again and again) if I thought there was a single unsold ticket left. All but two seats were filled the night I went (a Wednesday). But just as I know a good thing when I see it (years of practice), so do the folks who created “Cavalia.” The show has been extended through January 3 (with a week off December 7-14). It’s expensive, but you won’t regret it. Or forget it.