Friday, January 21, 2011
'Cavalia' Review: Unbridled Beauty in Burbank
Billed as "a magical encounter between human and horse," "Cavalia" expresses a genuine equine reverence in its gorgeously choreographed show, now playing under a grand, white big top in Burbank.
CC and I had the opportunity to catch the opening-night performance, and this family-friendly show, created by one of Cirque du Soleil's founders Normand Latourelle, really captures the wonder and magnificence of these gorgeous creatures, as well as the unique bond with their human counterparts.
Kicking off the show with trivia questions projected onto an expansive curtain extending the length of the 160-foot stage, "Cavalia" offered up a lot of interesting info. about the show and its participants. For instance, all 49 of the horses in the production (yes, 49!) are either stallions or geldings -- no mares allowed. (This, as you might imagine, concerned CC very much.) "Why are they all boys?" she asked.
When the performances began (after a short video of a horse giving birth, with her foal learning to use its newly free, spindly legs), the effect on the audience was palpable. Watching as 11 breeds of horses roamed freely on the stage, nosing the dirt beneath them and sidling up to their riders/trainers, was truly a sight to behold. It was the freedom of their movement that was most astounding. There were no prods or whips -- and the horses responded to verbal cues and gentle guiding rather than anything intrusive or potentially painful.
In fact, the most magnificent piece in the show, in my opinion -- which happened toward the end -- was when sprightly performer Sylvia Zerbini (a true horse whisperer, pictured right) guided nine unbridled Arabian horses into a dance that had them forming a circle, turning completely around before resuming the circular trot and then finishing with each horse's head resting on the one next to him.
I think my mouth was hanging open in amazement. She had used only her voice.
There were other unbelievable moments, as the various dancers, acrobats and other riders performed on stage, accompanied by a live band and singer. Using wires, two women appeared to float above two horses and their male riders. Another piece had six male and female riders on ghostly white horses "dancing" in unison (pictured above). Trick riders also wowed the crowd as they rode standing, while holding the reins on not two, but four and six horses at a time -- right before jumping over horizontal poles. Truly amazing.
The only parts of the show that gave me pause were the actual pauses. The performance (already scheduled at CC's bedtime) started about 20 minutes late, and the intermission also lasted 20 minutes, making for a show that ended at nearly 11 p.m. While we both enjoyed "Cavalia," CC inevitably fell asleep toward the end. So, parents who are bringing the little ones might want to consider a matinee.
To call this show ethereal would be to almost disregard the rugged thumping of hooves that bounded across the stage at regular intervals, but there was a dreamy quality to the performances that was enhanced only by the misty night air that surrounded the white tent village outside.
Under the Big White Big Top
777 N. Front St.
Burbank, CA 91502
January 19-February 13
8 p.m. (with weekend matinees at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.)
Tickets: $49-$199 (adults); $44-$179 (ages 13-17; 65+); $39-$149 (ages 2-12)
Note: Media tickets provided, as well as a stuffed animal pony for CC
(Photos courtesy of "Cavalia")