‘Odysseo’ Features Amazing Feats by Talented Performers


Whether four-legged or two, Cavalia “Odysseo” performers are amazing. The arrival of the troupe’s horse and human performers is a first for Ventura County, settling through Jan. 28 in Camarillo, where the big top tent is visible from Highway 101.

Based in Montreal, Cavalia is the largest Canadian-owned cultural enterprise. It was founded by Normand Lataourelle, who spent five years with Canada’s Cirque de Soleil during the 1980s.

Cavalia, with its unique pairing of performers, debuted in 2003. The “Odysseo” version premiered in 2011 and, like Cavalia, is touring the world.

What stands out about Cavalia, of course, is the equine emphasis, with its 65 horses outnumbering the multitalented human cast of 50 riders, acrobats, aerialists and musicians. All perform in a spacious, solidly based tent, with a huge stage designed to evolve into extraordinary scenes featuring deserts, mountains and other magically managed scene changes.

But there’s no question that what rivet audiences are the amazing horses who seem capable of almost anything, from lying at rest in a group, trotting, racing, parading in patterns and responding to their riders with eerie prescience. The all-male group includes 12 breeds and come from six countries, including the U.S. and Canada. Their training proceeds in a gentle manner in which the response to a reluctance to perform a certain feat, small or large, results in a change in approach or simply exceptional patience until the horse is ready to comply.

We were equally dazzled by horses charging across the wide stage at top speed straight into the wings on the one hand, and the quieter feats of forming patterns, remaining still and following subtle guidance. Riders racing by on pairs of steeds, all the while changing positions, are in sharp contrast to quieter moments when they usher their horses into intricate patterns. The four-legged performers move with uncanny precision. Only once did we notice a horse wandering from his team of four. Cavalia clearly has a response for even such a mild deviation: a cadre of offstage guides, one of whom quietly entered the stage and almost magically got the four-legged vagrant back on track.

The acrobats, including Chinese pole performers, an African troupe, stilt walkers and aerialists, have ample moments to shine. They also come from around the world, bringing skills from nine countries. Meeting the company’s high standards, they achieve the near-impossible in the air and on the ground.

There are special scenes that call into play unusual talents, such as aerialists who evocatively perform elegant ballet moves high above the stage, a carousel that descends to the stage with accompanying movement challenging strength and balance.

Cavalia is particularly proud of “Les Anges” (angels) which features performers in white whose costumes expand into material that becomes part of the patterns they weave from on high. At moments the scene is sheer human acrobatics of the most confounding types.

Accompanying and blending with the stage performances are a handful of musicians high up in the wings, providing effective accents to the action. A vocalist, first singing on stage, also adds to the vocal element in the wings.

Odysseo’s final scene morphs into a farewell in which the stage is covered ankle-deep in water. Humans and horses, with the latter perhaps more gleeful about the situation, join in a gentle romp that reinforces the bond between man and (beautiful) beast.
Odysseo brings out the best in its multi-talented performers, horses or humans. With striking feats achieved by acrobats who seem to soar beyond the possible into the intricately amazing, and horses that seem almost magically capable of extraordinarily coordinated teamwork.

Clearly, countless hours of hard work have gone into creating the seamless wonder of “Odysseo,” a show that inspires with its creative presentation as well as its barrier-breaking physical achievements. It almost makes an audience feel that maybe it’s the horse that is “man’s best friend.”