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'Cavalia' Highlights Power, Beauty of the Horse

  • Breshna Omarkhel
  • Penelope Poulou

'Cavalia' Highlights Power, Beauty of the Horse

'Cavalia' Highlights Power, Beauty of the Horse

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A show that has charmed millions of people in other parts of the world is now playing in the United States. What makes Cavalia special is that the stars are horses, riders and acrobats who combine to create a visual extravaganza.

Getting up to speed is no problem for the human and equine performers in Cavalia. The show is staged in the largest tent in North America, a space big enough to allow the horses to gallop and the acrobats to fly through the air. They are so graceful, it seems like a dream.

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Normand LaTourelle, a Canadian who helped form the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil acrobatic team, is the artistic director.

"I was inspired by the history of the horse, which is almost the history of the world," he said. "Everywhere you see a hoofprint of a horse on the sand, you see a step of man on the side. We have been with these animals for so long. I wanted to do a tribute for what they have done for us. The tent holds 2,000 people and we're doing amazing numbers [business] everywhere. We have sold so far 2.5 million tickets. Because we work with horses, we get more intimate - you feel [closer to] the performers."

The equestrian and acrobatic performances reflect strength and beauty working together.

The Cavalia troupe, shown here performing in Washington, was formed several years ago. It comes from Quebec in Canada and brings together dozens of acrobats, riders and musicians from many countries.

The horses are all stallions or geldings, mainly European breeds bred for obedience and strength. It can take six months to 10 years to train individual animals. The riders face special challenges. Performer Jessy Lucavo explains.

"Most of our artists are, of course, our horses, and they have minds of their own," he said. "We try to make everything look like everything is under control here, but there are times when these horses take over and our job is to make it look as beautiful as possible and work with the animal. We have to work with what they are willing to give us."

Some of the show's acts happen in a blur. There is even a kind of horse ballet showing off their graceful and fluid natural movement when they move completely at freedom, with only discreet cues from their human handler. Rider Landon Spencer says no two performances are exactly alike.

"They are not machines. They are live animals. They respond differently every day. They have moods, just like we have moods, and so it is a constant challenge to relate to them," he said.

The show is now in Atlanta.