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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Horse and Man
By Ariana Mufson
Of course, these horses have been impeccably trained by co-directors Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado, "horse whisperers" who prefer a relationship of trust over one of dominance and force. This became evident at the end of the show when Pignon tried to persuade three Lusitano stallions to lie down--a trick much harder than it seems, considering the innate competitive and aggressive nature of stallions. One refused. Another lay down but then started to get up. Pignon, with infinite patience, murmured and coaxed, smiling all the while. Finally, all three listened, and the audience burst into applause. These unscripted moments are what make the show even more of a success. We feel privy to a secret meeting between horse and human. Horse enthusiasts and non-equestrians alike will be captivated by the show's demonstration of skill and grace.
Cavalia traces the evolution of the horse and human "relationship." Fortunately, it excludes the brutality with which most humans treat horses. Though Cavalia does its part in inspiring awe of and greater respect for the horse, it makes one wish there were a donation box or an announcement urging the support for the horse foundations that are necessary to protect these magnificent animals.
The first act begins with projections of horse related quotes glorifying the horse, ranging from Arabian proverbs to Shakespeare. Other projections depict the horse in ancient art, a forest and the Roman coliseum. Costumes and scenery evoke ancient Greece, Rome, and Arthurian legend. In the second act, we're on the western frontier with cowboys and Indian trick riders gallopimg across the stage performing acrobatics that make the audience gasp and applaud. At one point, aerialists dangle from the ceiling, twirling and twisting as horses jump poles down below. The effect is so dizzying and exhilarating that we want to leap up onto the horses ourselves to experience the feeling of flight.
There are also more subtle moments. Dressage, when the horse carries out precise controlled movements in response to minimal signals from its rider, is a prominent feature of the show. For those not familiar with the equestrian technique, the horses look as if they are dancing-- sometimes in beat to the music, other times with each other and their riders. Cavalia is not just about the spectacle and excitement but leaves us feeling that we have witnessed an entirely balanced show, one where the horses not only perform and play, but dance.
When the performers take their final bows, a sigh of disappointment echoes throughout the white top-just before every audience member jumps up to give a standing ovation. Even though mostly human actors are on stage at the end, the applause is really for the horses. Luckily, a few remain upstage for us to watch, as they roll and mill about-- wonderfully oblivious to the fact that they are so captivating.
To watch the horse in such an atmosphere is magic. Lucky for us, Cavalia is magic as well.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. >Click image to buy.
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