Odysseo Premiere Event
16576 Laguna Canyon Rd. | Irvine, 92603
Feb. 6, 2016 | Odysseo Premiere Event
NOW PLAYING UNDER THE WHITE BIG TOP, AT THE JUNCTION OF THE I-405 & THE SR-133 IN IRVINE
After navigating my way through the neverending throng of excited attendees—parents struggling after children on Paint hobby horses, women in jean shorts or ankle length dresses, a man in a blue polo puffing on a cigar against his truck—like a call to prayer we all descend on the white acropolis. A black rectangular pion sporting ODYSSEO stands against the blinding white, marking the entrance into cool damp relief within. The seating is greek theater style, curved around a ring in a semi-circle, which right now is blocked off by a sheer curtain. Kissing the set on either side are a host of artificial trees, which begin what will become a theme throughout the next three hours: an illusion of teleportation to space outside of the dusty Irvine lot, one where thirst, hunger, worry, and reality all dissipate. It’s 2:15 when Latourelle himself—looking smart in a light blue polo under darker midnight suit and steely hair— makes his way to the front of the curtained set and introduces the show to raucous applause.
After a brief introduction to what we can expect, played out in the form of an audience-involved trivia game of “Guess how many…”, the lights dim, and a steady ting-ting of steel bells hushes the crowd.
The show has begun.
Now, full disclaimer, I’ve never been to a show like ODYSSEO, much less interacted with any horses outside of the occasional equine therapy session from previous work. However, from that little experience I can tell you that it’s quite a sensation to have a horse take a strong enough interest in you to try and take a nibble at a hanging sleeve. So when one of the first acts begins with nine horses trotting at a brisk pace toward a lone female figure you tend to take notice. Breaking at only the final moment to canter distractedly around the ring in muted silence in preparation for the actual performance: a near fifteen-minute spectacle of said lone performer taking control of her bustling cohorts with commands we the audience can hardly make out over the musical din of weaving violin chords. Pinwheels, laps around the ring, and a series of trots, all serve to press against the imagination of just how much work had to have gone into getting all of these horses to not only be able to stand the clamor of the crowd with only one hand amongst them for guidance, but to stand one another as well—though it should be noted a bemused encounter between two nipping performers drew some laughs near the beginning.
This tempered control is demonstrated time and time again, perhaps the most impressive feat being that Latourelle manages to continue taking our breath away at each interval. To be sure, these animals manage to “goof off” enough to supplant any measure of assuredness that the next moment won’t spell disaster for the men and women within the ring. During one memorable sequence, something like twenty-four of the horses are packed into an extended arena (complete with a rolling hill in the background), weaving around each other like so many ants going about their business. You almost forget the people are even there as the measured movements become a mesmerizing sea of whites and browns, grays and black.
That being said, when Latourelle transforms the arena into a dreamscape of fantastical pinks and midnight blues, a digital background taking us to outer space as a merry-go-round descends from the ceiling, what follows has to be one of the most surreal moments of the entire runtime: a music box-like performance as a troupe of performing pairs glide and elide around one another in perfect synchronicity, balancing against the unending pirouettes of a revolving platform. Notably, the only horses in the entire performance are the ones you normally see on a merry-go-round with enameled wood and twenty-foot gold-varnished poles extending out of their backs (and where the majority of the performers’ stunts take place). Therein lies my only regret whilst enjoying Latourelle’s latest enterprise, the pinocchian breeds adding little ground to the swathes carved out by its headier fellows.
To say the rest of the performance was just as enthralling would be an understatement, and whatever I write could never do justice to the hard work put in by all. According to production company Cavalia’s website, ODYSSEO is a journey of the spirit in its quest for harmony—the audience is invited to join a group of acrobats in enthusiastically reciting the words “O Walu Guere Moufan” projected on the digital projection at the back of the arena, dashing the hard line between fantastical and real when the words are finally translated at the end to “No More War on Earth”. A sea of horses come across a literal oasis in the culminating moments of the show (how this is accomplished I’ll leave for you to discover), and the upward swing that this harmony is possible comes to a head.
Stepping out from under the thirst-quenching pavilion and into the dusty gravel of an emptying lot, it’s hard not to feel like one has woken from a dream, if not a bit more optimistic.
Cavalia, the first production of the Canadian company, began its world tour in the summer of 2003. Conceived by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of famed Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia is a fresh mix of equestrian and performing arts, multimedia and special effects, innovatively integrating acrobatics, dance, aerial stunts and live music.The show – often labelled as an equestrian ballet – combines advanced technology and the fundamental relationship that humans have developed with horses throughout time; enabling us to build bridges between cultures, to expand civilization and now to produce the purest form of art, one created through kindness, patience, and love. [cavalia.net]
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