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Odysseo shows ability of horse and human in near-perfect performance

Around 100 VIP's were invited to an exclusive 50-minute sneak peek of Odysseo, Cavalia's larger-than-life theatrical production, Wednesday afternoon at the gigantic tent set up just near Kenaston Boulevard. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Around 100 VIP's were invited to an exclusive 50-minute sneak peek of Odysseo, Cavalia's larger-than-life theatrical production, Wednesday afternoon at the gigantic tent set up just near Kenaston Boulevard. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/9/2015 (1069 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The big top is up, the horses are ready and the doors are officially open for the much-anticipated equestrian and acrobatic arts production, Odysseo.

The site of the show was buzzing with excitement as 2,000 Winnipeggers waited to see for themselves what all the hype is about, but it didn’t take long to find out.

As the opening curtains were raised, the audience was officially welcomed into the dreamy world of Odysseo with a group of horses who were free to wander their way around stage. The audience’s excitement was almost tangible at just the sight of those horses, let alone when the real performance began.

Even if you’re not a “horse person,” it’s hard not to be swept up in the beauty and intelligence of these animals. They are truly stunning — thanks in no small part to the upkeep from the many groomers and stable hands backstage — with their perfectly tousled manes and shiny coats catching the light as they execute complicated tricks and choreography. Of course, they didn’t always do exactly what their trainer asked, but that’s all part of the fun.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/9/2015 (1069 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The big top is up, the horses are ready and the doors are officially open for the much-anticipated equestrian and acrobatic arts production, Odysseo.

The site of the show was buzzing with excitement as 2,000 Winnipeggers waited to see for themselves what all the hype is about, but it didn’t take long to find out.

As the opening curtains were raised, the audience was officially welcomed into the dreamy world of Odysseo with a group of horses who were free to wander their way around stage. The audience’s excitement was almost tangible at just the sight of those horses, let alone when the real performance began.

Even if you’re not a "horse person," it’s hard not to be swept up in the beauty and intelligence of these animals. They are truly stunning — thanks in no small part to the upkeep from the many groomers and stable hands backstage — with their perfectly tousled manes and shiny coats catching the light as they execute complicated tricks and choreography. Of course, they didn’t always do exactly what their trainer asked, but that’s all part of the fun.

The relationship between the horses and their trainers was at the forefront of the equestrian parts of the show, with each nose getting a nice little pat or an ear getting scratched after — and often during — every routine. The beginning of the second half showcased this the best, with a staggering 30 horses on stage without any reins or leads, using only the trainers’ voices and body movements to guide them. Some trainers were responsible for up to four horses at a time and still managed to keep them under enough control to get all 30 into several different formations.

The acrobatics, too, are something to behold. Think flips and lifts — and lots of them. The strength of these athletes is simply astounding as they maneuver their bodies and weight in a way that seems almost impossible. The aerialists had two especially impressive routines: the first was a on a massive carousel that descended from the ceiling of the big top and they performed a breathtaking routine, both as solo artists and in pairs, on the merry-go-round’s poles in front of a romantic starry night sky. The second routine was performed on hoops suspended from the top of the giant tent and included many intricate (and dangerous) stunts.

There is an epic feeling surrounding every part of Odysseo — the scale and intensity of the performance is at almost a biblical level. So, it should come as no surprise the production value of the show is about as good as you’re going to see anywhere. There’s a reason Odysseo costs millions to put on and it shows in the quality of the multimedia, sets and costumes. A large screen curves around the back of the stage and hosts projections of various landscapes and skies and helps creates a cinematic ambiance. Some of the routines look as though they could have been ripped from any Lord of the Rings movie.

Not to mention there’s also a lake, which is the feature of the finale number. The stage is flooded with thousands of litres of water, creating the most picturesque moment of the night as a group of white horses charge through, creating the perfect amount of splash-back as they run. Even though it’s understood this moment has been manufactured, it doesn’t make it feel any less magical.

One thing that was a little unexpected was the interaction between the performers and the audience. In what feels like a nod to the history of this type of circus-based performing arts, the crowd was encouraged to clap along and help energize the performers, really making the audience feel like part of the show. There was no metaphorical performer-audience barrier and it made the whole performance feel like less of a daunting viewing experience and injected a more casual energy.

The music, too, should not be glossed over. The live band, divided between two rooms semi-hidden among the trees on either side of the stage, is precise and perfect, adapting to the unexpected pacing changes brought on by the freedom of the horses. This is not an easy task and deserves to be commended.

Odysseo is undoubtedly a sight to be seen. There is no lagging, no dull moments, nothing that feels like filler. Cavalia has created something very special here, and it seems almost impossible for anyone to have left unimpressed.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar joined the Free Press in December 2013 as a web and copy editor, often working the overnight shift, or ‘the other 9-5’ as she likes to call it.

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History

Updated on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 10:53 AM CDT: Adds videos

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