Stunning video backdrops that blend seamlessly into the large arena, a full-size carousel that descends from above, aerial equipment for amazing acrobatics, an 80,000 gallon lake; all this and more work together to present the most extraordinary show I have ever witnessed. But it is the horses that command the attention, along with a cast of riders with phenomenal athletic ability. This is OdysseO!
Rave reviews and a packed venue have led the producers to extend this show twice, now running through March 8 at Frisco’s Dr. Pepper Ballpark. Highly recommended for anyone, horse lovers especially should not miss this. The intelligence, power and personality of the horse is showcased in a heartwarming, jaw-dropping, and thrilling manner. I regretted having to blink my eyes and miss even a fraction of a second!
Artistic Director and Creator Normand Latourelle, together with his sons David and Matthieu and Dominique Day, have the passion and vision that fuels the production. The 125-foot tall tent with seating for more than 2,000 stages it, and a cast of about forty horses and 35 human performers present it. A dozen different breeds of horses from Canada, France, Spain and the United States take the stage for each show. Their average age is 9 ½ years old, and they train for about a year for their part in the show. The human cast includes riders, acrobats, dancers, and musicians. All the music is live, and carefully controlled to compliment the pace of the horses. Each performance requires 365 costumes, designed for both horse and rider, and 68 saddles of five different types.
To experience OdysseO is to become acquainted with the horse, its character, and personality. I had the advantage to attend a Tuesday performance, following a “day off” for the horses’ rest. In an interview with the head trainer I was told that the horses always have a little extra energy on these days, and I saw this in some mischievous behavior on the stage. Marvelously trained, the horses are also allowed to be themselves, and they are individuals. Quite often there was a group of horses in the arena completely loose; no halters, bridles or ropes. They clearly knew what they were supposed to do, but occasionally chose not to do it right away. Returning to the handler, they might snort or shake their head, then scamper off to play or influence another horse before taking up their proper position again. There was no sense of lost control or chaos; more like a bit of fun. As a horse owner myself, I am aware of the danger in an uncontrolled animal of this size, and there was a little bit of rearing, kicking, nipping and bucking! It was more entertaining than frightening.
The show is divided into acts portraying an enchanted forest, the desert and savanna of Africa, the American Southwest, the Northern Lights, an ice cave, lush fields and Easter Island. At one time the horses are guided around the arena by women wearing flowing skirts and standing on the horses backs! In another scene they gallop around and jump hurdles. The American Southwest scene features trick riding, with the horses at a dead run and the riders jumping on and off, balancing upside down in one stirrup and performing acrobatic feats that defy the imagination. A military like, intricate parade drill was very impressive; the animals trotted and the riders rode erect, giving near invisible cues to their mounts. A troupe of African dancers complement many of the scenes and add acrobatics and drumming as well as a little comedy. The aerialists rose on large hoops to dizzying heights, spinning, twisting and flipping until I found I was holding my breath! The carousel is hauntingly beautiful, and I was fascinated to see that it was horse powered, turned by long streamers held by the riders as they circled the massive machine. The acrobats, costumed as angels, performed their routines as a slow motion, incredibly graceful dance among the carousel horses and on the poles. What appeared delicate and weightless must have required great strength and control! All was accompanied by a female soloist who lent the perfect atmosphere in a visible but non-intrusive way.
The final scene involved the flooding of the stage to create a shallow lake. A herd of free running horses splashed through the water with abandon, sending sprays of water in a wave behind them. As they exited a rider on a magnificent Lipizan stallion took the stage and executed some of the amazing moves of this breed that made the Austrian riding school famous. Rearing, trotting sideways, crossing his front legs with each step, and prancing in place, the animal’s focus and coordination is captivating. The rider’s cues are invisible, as in all dressage maneuvers, and showcases the close partnership and relationship between horse and rider.
The beauty of the horses is a combination of their wild nature, their training, and the care they receive. They are showered, groomed, massaged. and exercised; and the long manes and tails of some of the horses are braided after every show, a process taking from 15 to 45 minutes. The riders are responsible for much of the care of their mounts, which enhances the relationship. No one without a passion for horses and this show would make such a commitment; it is a lifestyle and culture apart from ‘average’.
Words, and even pictures cannot express the impact of this show. The attention to every detail of design, costuming, accompaniment, technology and choreography only highlight the free-spirited horses. Even the incredibly skilled human performers are supporting features that continually direct attention to the stars of the show. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is a title already taken, but easily applied here. Just a few more days until this opportunity will be gone from our area. Don’t miss it!
See recent video: http://youtu.be/pOy_51yJaE4