Cavalia captivates

Long, flowing manes and sinewy muscles. Living works of art born of impeccable breeding and precision training. Such beautiful creatures.

But they’re no match for the horses.

While the human performers in Cavalia wowed an opening-night crowd Wednesday with acrobatic feats on the ground and in the air, the equine stars commanded the most attention, exhibiting the grace that comes with royalty. And they were treated as such.

Normand Latourelle’s visionary wonder, which premiered in Quebec in 2003, will make you change the way you think about horses. The co-founder of Cirque du Soleil presents an evening of enchantment that has more to do about dance and grace then it does about the kind of death-defying stunts we’ve come to associate with performances under the big top (watch the interview).

But this choreography, complemented by a powerful live band, was written especially for the 40 stallions and geldings representing 12 breeds Some of the most stunning moments come from the ballet of the gorgeous animals and their human co-stars — whether a single trainer directing a team or a group of elegant costumed riders parading their steeds in dazzling formations — that make you wish you had an aerial view to complement the perspective from the stands.

There are plenty of razzle-dazzle antics as riders show off their skills hanging and spinning their bodies from atop the horses. And the 160-foot wide stage gives the horses and riders lots of space to build drama with speed. One of the most high-energy acts features four performers each riding two horses while standing. It’s also the first time during the performance that the five musicians can be seen above the stage, framed in images of arches.

The first applause of the night comes not for a live performer, but for a newborn foal projected in a film on a 200-foot screen. When it stands for the first time, its wobbly legs belie the strength we know it will someday possess. Cavalia shows off that strength in spades. You walk away from Cavalia enthralled by the magic of these mysterious creatures and the respectful way their amazing skills are presented.
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