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First impressions of ‘Cavalia,’ in Atlanta through Nov. 15


Horse trainer Sylvia Zerbini, who appears in "Cavalia," unloaded a horse into its stable in Atlantic Station last week. AJC/Elissa Eubanks

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,

7 comments Add your comment

[...] it opened in October, I offered up a brief take on the show, and my colleague Howard Pousner wrote a glowing review. Now that 100,000 of you have seen it, what [...]


December 21st, 2009
11:41 am

My night at CAVALIA was one of the best spent during this holiday season! What a wonderful show! My daughter would have loved it also.
There was a beautiful demonstration of talent, strength, loyalty, romance, and fun with the artists and horses all in one. The music was also beautiful. I visited the night they celebrated the sale of the 100,000 ticket! I purchased the DVD and am hoping to go again before the last show in Atlanta. Thanks for sharing this show with Atlanta! Safe travels!

Marsha Crenshaw

December 9th, 2009
5:37 am

You, as a a ” reviewer” must have been boxed (as most writers are) in the cheap seats. I would think, if given a job, writing about a very sensitive subject, you would at least express yourself as such. The diatribe you wrote is as see through as a hastily put together term paper.

You were one of the few that looked on, like a mission for your next review. Good luck. Remember…only write about things you know, or can quickly gather information on.

I write and voice for a living. It is a small pool.

S Penoyer

November 15th, 2009
8:58 am

I thought the horses were beautiful, and the gymnastics were fun, but after the first hour my partner and I were bored to tears and decided to leave early. Too much of the same repeating over and over and frankly i felt the price was too high for the experience. Was this better than watching television at home? Certainly. I think it would be much more exciting if the mixed it up a bit and didn’t stick to the same Old World theme throughout the entire show.


November 11th, 2009
10:26 am

My wife and daughter went and really liked the show.

What wasn’t so cool is that apparently our credit card payment for the ticket was processed on a foreign Cavalia account, so we were hit with an International Service Fee. No mention of this when paying for the tickets (over the phone).

Sort of leaves a bitter aftertaste…


November 9th, 2009
1:05 pm

Keep the children at home or go to the matinee. A two 1/2 hour show from 8:00 to 10:30 is NOT for children. Trust the people that had to sit in front of three loud ones!

[...] To read Inside Access blogger Jamie Gumbrecht’s ‘First Impressions’ of this show featuring horse and man, click here. [...]