August 22 2007
When I was in Brussels a few weeks ago, I saw the posters for Cavalia in Brussels on August 23. Man, I thought, I've always wanted to see Cavalia! (never have). Too bad I won't be in Brussels then.
Back in Brussels on August 21 for a few days (en route to Compiegne ride in France this weekend with Belgians Leonard and Caroll) I'd forgotten all about Cavalia, until Caroll emailed me. “Do you want to go to a horseshow tomorrow night? I have two free tickets.” I emailed back, “Sure!” Love going to horse shows. Well, turns out, she was not talking about a horse show, she was talking about THE HORSE SHOW, Cavalia!!
And not only was she talking about going to see Cavalia, and not only did she have two tickets, she had two VIP TICKETS: “VIP places of course with visit of horses after the show”. Oh. My. God. This was going to be better than going backstage to see Geoff Tate after a Queensryche concert!!
I met Caroll after she finished work, we caught the train to Brussels North, then got a free Tour-and-Taxi ride to the site of the show, where Caroll's cousin Sandra met us with VIP passes. Sandra is the front of house manager with the show that's touring around Europe.
We got to wine and dine (sans the dining) in the VIP tent, shop the Cavalia goods, then... into the big tent theatre!
I spent many years working in Seattle theatre, behind the scenes with lights and sound, and I just loved it. Not just the shows themselves, but the whole behind-the-scenes life – the fascinating and complex elements of how a show is put together technically, how it comes together artistically to produce the polished magic that is on stage. I'm still the sound engineer for the black gospel musical, The Gospel at Colonus, that comes out of the closet every few years for a show, and I'm still astounded every time at how that comes together (oooh, there are stories there!) and I'm never not thrilled with the magic every time we do it, every night of the show.
And here at Cavalia was not only theatre, but theatre with horses! Always not-completely-predictable! Even with human actors, every show won't be exactly the same, so with horses, I'm there must be a lot of flexibility the performers learn to work around!
Resembling Cirque du Soleil (the Artistic Director, Norman Latourelle, is one and the same), Cavalia has human acrobats, equine performances with humans and without, ridden horses and horses at freedom, fantastic lighting design, a good group of musicians and a vocalist for live music. Beautiful horses – lusitanos, Spanish horses, quarter horses, draft horses. Single horse and rider floating through fog, passaging through snowflakes, strutting through falling autumn leaves. Horses at freedom sprinting around Frederic, or prancing around a female dancer in a pond, horses – one or two or three of them at a time - following Frederic, waltzing sideways, moving backwards, rearing, in response to just a glance or a raised eyebrow or finger. Pas de deux with two, pas de cinq (I'm might be making that term up), with 5 white lusitanos. You can see the horses enjoy their performances – some of them show off a bit more than others; some of them appear to be clearly annoyed with their fellow equine performer when he is not doing his job properly!
There were trick riders galloping full speed across the stage arena (sand, with a platform in the center); there were graceful horses under saddle with slow exaggerated movements, and a gracefully ridden lusitano sans bridle and saddle. There were riders riding two horses at once – standing on the horses' butts – and one gal riding 4 horses! Galloping full speed! And taking a jump no less!
Cavalia started off in 2003 with 29 horses; there's now some 64 horses in the show (not all are on every night), 31 of them stallions (no mares!). They range from 12 months to 22 years of age, and the average age is 8. The way they perform, you can see they are trained and handled with patience and respect for the horse. And they are spoiled – in a good way: special feed, a bath a day, a massage once a week.
We had seats smack in the center, and after the show we wandered to the horse tent (Caroll and I and about 200 other VIPs!) where we looked at the equine performers, some of who'd had the night off, and some who'd just had their after-show baths and were getting their beautiful long maines braided (protected) for the night, by the grooms and performers. All of the horses were eating and not interested in signing horse autographs, and some were clearly ready to sleep and had their butts to their stall doors, their ears laying back slightly in irritation from all the commotion. I goggled at the beautiful performers (the horses) and I did have to touch one of them, I just couldn't help myself!
Oh, yea, and we did meet Frederic, “the European 'Horse Whisperer' star of Cavalia” afterwards, also. I had a million questions I could have asked him (and I wanted to talk to the stage manager too!), but I left that to Caroll, who'd be interpreting his French reponses for me later!