I shouldn’t have been surprised last night when I walked into the White Big Top at Atlantic Station and thought, “It smells a little like a barn.” Of course it’s a little farm fresh — there are 60-some horses on tour with “Cavalia.” For all the controls we see on them, they’re still animals.
The Cirque du Soleil-like horse show opened last night for a run that lasts through Nov. 15. Normand Latourelle, “Cavalia” creator and artistic director, told me that his top priority is to please the eyes, and he succeeds at that. There’s not much of a story, but cool stage tricks, cool horse tricks and cool human tricks combine for something more unique than a concert, equestrian event or circus.
It looked like a packed house last night, but it was a see-and-be-seen opening for “Cavalia,” the night when political candidates, Real Housewives of Atlanta, reporters and the like show up to schmooze and, not coincidentally, build buzz with their considerably loud mouths.
Here’s a “Cavalia” review by the AJC’s Howard Pousner. Here are my impressions from opening night:
Normand was right: horses are stars.
He says often in interviews that when a horse is on stage, it can’t help but steal the show from anybody with two legs. He’s right. As the show began Tuesday night, human performers lined the stage, but it was hard to look away from the two young horses standing to the side. We think we know the boundaries of the human body — even the crazy, not-made-of-the-same-stuff-I-am bodies of acrobats — but we have no idea what a horse will do without a human guide.
Well, he was mostly right. Flying humans trump horses.
Even the grandest, most majestic horse can not compete with women flying through the air. Horses are unpredictable, but gravity isn’t. When humans move against it, you have to catch your breath.
My inner 6-year-old wants a pony.
I do not want a pony. So far, I haven’t been able to keep a basil plant alive. But “I”-of-20-years-ago probably would have stayed up reading “Misty of Chincoteague” and pondering a career in the circus. Parents bringing their children to this show ought to be prepared for “horse” to show up on the next birthday list.
What impresses most are not be the flashiest moment.
There are some high-drama jumps, artful twirling and moments of genuine artistry in movement and music, but the moments I heard people mention afterward involved trainer Sylvia Zerbini. She was on stage with eight horses, guiding them through circles, twists and postures with nothing more than words, handfuls of sand and sometimes a crop. (One assumes there is a backstage buffet of carrots and apples, too.) It’s funny, it’s impressive, it’s sweet — less a performance than a show of unique skill and comfort. I love, too, that the audiences reacts happily when horses just get to be horses.
If nothing else, the horses go fast.
You may not be impressed by the video of a horse giving birth, the acrobat rolling around on a ball or even the precise maneuvering of these incredible animals. This show is not for everybody. But it’s hard not to get excited when eight horses dart past, with and without humans riding them. Speed is an old trick, but it works.
Want to go? “Cavalia,” 8 p.m. most week nights, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 15. $34.50-$189.50. Under the White Big Top at Atlantic Station. 1-866-999-8111, Cavalia.net.