Cavalia’s new show Odysseo opens tomorrow in Calgary. Invited to the media preview today, I have to say this mystical, magical show is like nothing you’ve ever seen.With 70 horses and 49 human artists performing under the big white tent at Canada’s Olympic Park, Odysseo is the largest traveling show on earth. Bigger than U2. With a stage that’s bigger than a hockey rink. It’s twice as big as their original show, simply named Cavalia, which is still touring places like Dubai, Belgium and Australia.Beyond the amazing equestrian and acrobatic spectacle, special effects include high-def computer graphics on a screen called a “cyclorama” — the size of three IMAX screens. When the horses come toward you, it’s like they’re breaking free from a film or a painting.Show creator Normand Latourelle calls this 6-D. “It’s like watching a big Hollywood movie, but it’s live.”Seating seems intimate, yet the big top has enough room for an audience of 2000. Of course, it feels really intimate when you have a front row seat.Dream sequence followed by fantastic dream sequence, enhanced by acrobats, live musicians and a massive merry-go-round that lowers from the rafters, finally transforms to an aquatic vision.300,000 liters of water fill the stage to create a lake for the finale. If you’re lucky enough to have a floor seat, you may get splashed.After the incredible 50-minute preview, I trotted to the stage to take a selfie with some of the stars of the show, like Indigo the Appaloosa and his lovely rider…… and bumped into Normand, who tells me he doesn’t ride. “They put me on the horse once for a picture and I looked like a potato bag.”
But that doesn’t stop him from creating spectacular shows. After all, he helped start Cirque du Soleil without ever trying a trapeze. “Why should I ride? But I can pretty much understand what the horse do,” he says, his Quebec accent coming through. “The rule here is let the horse be a horse. Don’t make them do human tricks.”The natural scenes surrounding the horses were inspired by Normand’s view from home, an hour outside of Montreal. “I watch out my window when I’m in the kitchen. It’s what I have reproduced on stage. So I brought the mountain. I have almost a lake, a forest, all the images we project.”Behind the scenes, the temporary stable rivals pony digs at Spruce Meadows. Performers tend to their mounts before getting out of costume.No lead rope required!Pompon is a Canadian Cross. I didn’t realize that this breed, descended from horses sent to the New World by Louis XIV, was once on the verge of extinction. Now numbering 2500, there are two of them here.This is where the horses poop before the show! I’m not kidding! Thanks to my time at 19 Action News in Cleveland, I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions. And Normand was willing to talk. “We exercise them before. When they poop in the warm up, we thank them. They know it’s the place to do it. So they don’t do it often on stage.”I thought there would be all kinds of crazy hooks and loops to assist the performers, but many of the saddles looked like regular English ones to me.No mares in this barn! All the horses are either stallions, or geldings, like Raz, this six-year-old Arabian.Don’t tell my horse Simon, but I think Raz and I had a little connection.1200 invited VIP guests will be under the big top tomorrow night for Odysseo. I’m thrilled to be one of them, since I have a feeling I could watch this performance a thousand times over and not tire of it. Stay tuned for my official show review, later this week.