November 1, 2013
Shiny masts touch the sky above False Creek just West of the Village, like a gleaming castle in a long-ago magical tale. But these masts are very much about the present, along with the arches and billowing white canvas of the White Big Top that is home to Cavalia’s Odysseo during its stay in Vancouver, BC, from December 7, 2013 to January 5, 2014.
Although technically a tent, the White Big Top is unlike any tent you’ve imagined, covering 47,000 square feet (the stage alone spans 35,000 square feet) and towering 125 feet high. Once inside, spectators lose any sense of a temporary structure as they’re transported into a three-dimensional live theatrical event that combines dramatics, high-tech effects, and dazzling equestrian action.
Photo: Lynne Glazer
The stagecraft wizardry of Odysseo also features a mountain range rising above the audience, a lake suddenly appearing, mysteriously conjured from 80,000 gallons of recycled water, and a gigantic merry-go-round descending onto the stage. Add elements of dressage, trick riding, and Roman-style horsemanship, and you’ll get a sense of the show’s elaborate scope.
What does it take to bring the Odysseo production with its elaborate 300-plus costumes and equine stars to town? Imagine trailering your horse to a show four hours away…then multiply the preparation required one thousand fold. The tack alone consists of 68 specially fitted saddles, for dressage, English, Roman, and trick riding.
Odysseo, the largest live entertainment show in the world, boasts 64 horses (18 stallions, the remainder geldings) of a dozen varied breeds, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Oldenburgs, and Lusitanos, from the U.S., Spain, Canada, and France. Forty horses perform regularly, with the rest in training or in the wings as substitutes. Cavalia horses tour for roughly six years, and their average age is about nine.
Photo: Shelley Paulson
Unless their performance schedule requires air transport, with a vet and support team on hand for the journey, the horses generally travel in five customized trailers, all equipped with surveillance cameras. Twenty people, including a pair of vet technicians, a blacksmith, and a stable manager, as well as grooms, tend the Cavalia horses, who enjoy a spa-style pampering each day, with personalized diets, daily showers, massages, and workshops with their riders. Next time you groan at rising feed prices, imagine if your barn residents consumed what the Cavalia horses chow down on every year: 18,000 bales of hay, 37,400 pounds of grain, and 1800 pounds of carrots.
When a show travels to another venue, the horses get a vacation, recharging their batteries with a two-week turnout. While they’re working, they’re stabled in roomy tents on the site of the show. Once settled in their 16,000 square-feet stables, the horses each have a designated box stall with ample space to stretch, lie down, sprawl out, roll, and relax. They always have the same neighbors to ensure their environment is familiar and comfortable in each city.
Photo: Lynne Glazer
The entire Odyesso show, and a second troupe now touring in Australia, is much like a larger-than-life theatrical production on wheels with a total of 100 vehicles that ferry the show from city to city. The residents of this upscale village-in-motion consist of 120 permanent employees, made up of 47 artists who include acrobats, aerialists, dancers, and riders from around the world, choreographers, lighting experts, and an always-busy crew to put up and tear down the performance site.
But it’s what’s inside the tents that are the real show-stopper, a horse ballet to tantalize horse enthusiasts across all equestrian disciplines, from Western reining to hunt seat completion. Odysseo will stir the imagination and remind observers of the unbridled power and beauty that horses embody.
Cavalia's Odysseo will be performing in Vancouver, BC, from December 7, 2013 to January 5, 2014. For tickets and more information, please visit the Cavalia website.
Main Article Photo: Color-ish Company