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Cavalia returns with a new production - Odysseo



Elise Verdoncq, aboard Omerio, a 10 year old Lusitano Stallion, rehearses in front of the waterfall set.


Rick Madonik, Staff Photographer - @RMadonik

Cavalia's philosphy is paying "homage to the age-old bond between human and horse." It is a performance where the horse is the central character. The show features 61 horses (11 breeds) and 49 equine, acrobatic and aerialist artists, all working in harmony.

I haven't seen the full Odyssio show, only snippets of it during a Toronto Star sneak look at the production. Randy Rising, (video at http://www.thestar.com/videozone/1177938--behind-the-scenes-of-cavalia-s-odysseo) and I were both accorded access to some of the rehearsal as well as back stage. But I did catch the 2003 staging where I found it completely captivating. I can only assume, this production, with a stage twice the size as the first as well as incorporating 80,000 gallons of water which floods the stage area, will leave patrons with large grins on their faces as well as questioning "how do they train the horses to do that."

In the stable area its evident the love and care the animals are given. Riders care for their horses, aided by a team of groomers. The stall area is roomy and clean. The horses enjoyed 3 weeks of downtime (in Kentucky) between the Miami production and the Toronto set up.

Artistic Director Normand Latourelle has 40 years of experience in the performing arts - 5 years with Cirque du Soleil (1985-90), and is the driving visionary. Wayne Fowkes directs the show bringing together the creative juices of Equestrian Direction and Choreography (Benjamin Aillaud), Set Design (Guilliame Lord), Visual Concept (Geodezik), Lighting (Alain Lortie), Costume (Georges Levesque and Michele Hamel) and Music (Michel Cuson).

The touring tent is, apparently, the largest such structure in the world. It has 2,290 unobstructed seats and views a 27,000 square foot stage. Crews have been on site for weeks preping the area which is set up at Cherry Street and Lake Shore Blvd.

The three week run begins tonight, but brisk ticket sales could extend the stay.

If you have a love for all things equine, or all things theatrical, then this is a show worthy of your entertainment dollars.



Elise Verdoncq, aboard Omerio, a 10 year old Lusitano Stallion, is seen reflected in the flooded stage.



Rehearsal for Haute Ecole Eau portion of the show where a group of riderless horses runs "wildly" around other horses with riders.




Riders and their horses in position as the "free" horses run in circles around them, and through the pool containing 80,000 gallons of water.



Eleven breed of horses are featured among the 61 horses which are the main part of the show. Horses are trained for a number of roles, and can be substituted if necessary.



Elise Verdoncq, aboard Omerio (right), move the free horses into a run in front of other performers.



Groomer Jordana Pearson gives Lazao, a 13 year old Lusitano Gelding, a wash down in the paddock.



Amigo, a 9 year old Quarter Horse Gelding, gets a cleaning scrub from Calorane Dupuis.



Groomer Claudine Lemeux with Merlin, a 6 year old Percheron Gelding.



Double bit reins line the wall of the saddle room.



The first thing patrons will see upon entering the Big Tent is the structural support for the 2, 290 seats.



Director Wayne Fowkes (centre) waits for the aerialists to be properly rigged before the riders and horses join in the rehearsal.



Aerialist Chelsea Teel waits to ascend during Vol rehearsal.



Aerialist Andrea Legg during Vol rehearsal. Cavalia, Odysseo, is in final preparations for tonight's opening.



The team for Vol, including 4 aerialists and 4 riders on 4 horses enter centre stage.



Rehearsal for Vol act which features 4 aerialists, 4 riders and 4 horses. The horses and riders spin the aerialists as they perform while spinning above the stage area.



Horses and riders spin the aerialists as they perform while tethered above the stage area.



Director Wayne Fowkes speaks to riders following a run through of part of the show.



Bilbo sports a braided mane. Bilbo is an 8 year old stallion, one of 2 Adrennais (European draft horse) breeds in the show.



Chelsea Teel hangs upside down, secured by partner B.J. Erdmann, as they work on their act in the warm up tent.



 B.J. Erdmann's feet take a beating in his life as an aerialist.



The days' schedule in the performer's warm up tent.



Alseny Bangoura (right) with the help of Balla Moussa Bangoura (both are acrobats) drag rider Lara Gabin and make her do a little dance during the "welcome back" meeting inside the warm up tent.



New city, new country, new paperwork. Performers fill out some of the paperwork after the first meeting once the group had reassembled in Toronto for the upcoming shows.



Hair stylist Louis Bond prepares some of the extensions for performers.



Acrobats Sékou Camara (left) and Balla Moussa Bangoura, move some of the lockers into position as everyone pitches in to help set up the area.



Make-up artist Jessica Manzo prepares rider Orane Caujolle-Gazet.



Jessica Manzo puts the finishing touches on rider Orane Caujolle-Gazet.


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