Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cavalia!

I took my daughter to see Cavalia.  It was quite the experience.  I"m not a huge obsessive fan of many things but I am now an obsessive fan of Cavalia.  For one thing, the horses are incredibly well trained and lovely and the acrobats are amazing, but for another you can tell they treat their horses really well.  Their riding is based on dressage which at its roots is about the ultimate in communication between rider and horse.  Although not everyone I've met in the last five years who claims to ride dressage actually understands what dressage really is and will resort to "old cowboy tricks" or scaring or trying to "break" a horse into submission.  And they'll use whips to scare their horses and that sorts of thing - as opposed to what whips and crops are meant to be which is an extension of one's own arm so as to continue to give cues.  I was watching the girl lunging a herd of horses and she never "cracked" the whip at the horses, she used it to signal where to go, or touch the back of their heels to get their attention and subtle cues like that.

There were a few mistakes which the performers dealt with well and stayed completely calm and graceful about.  One girl doing tricks with a lariat messed up and just regrouped herself and kept going like we hadn't even noticed.  One of the performers who was riding a horse while standing up and was supposed to jump up, do a somersault in the air and land back on his horse, actually misjudged his distance and landed on the side of his horse and slid off - but he righted himself and landed on his feet on the ground.  He tried it again and although he landed on the horse he lost his balance and fell off, but managed to land on his feet again.  He made lots of faces and gestures in mock self-deprivation, but I noticed when he went back to the starting spot for the routine, he spent a minute talking to his horse and comforting him about the fact that he was doing a routine more than once during a performance.  The third time he successful did the mid-air somersault, landed standing up on the horses back, and then praised the horse excessively for the horse having the patience to do it over again three times like that.

The scary accident was a young guy who was riding two horses at once - one foot on either horse, and he was supposed to ride the horses at a gallop (while standing with one foot on either horse) up to a big poled and when the horses ran under the pole he jumped over the pole and hopefully would land with a foot on either horse and balance himself to stand on them until they slowed down.  But instead the horses ran under the pole, he jumped over the pole, but when he landed one of his feet slipped and he crumpled down in between the two galloping horses and landed face down on the ground.  Thankfully, we were in the second row on the left side of the stage and this happened on the right side of the stage so I could see that he fell straight in between the horses and they both instantly moved out away from him so he didn't get trampled.  Still, it was a horrible fall and he lay on the ground for a full minute (which in a performance is a long time) until two other performers actually left their posts to go over to his side.  I was really worried he was badly hurt, but as soon as the other performers reached his side he jumped up, waved to the audience, shrugged in self-deprecation then went back, got on the two horses and performed the trick again - this time perfectly.

My friend, A.  and I were completely breathless by that point and she gasped, "Well, that right there was enough excitement to be worth the high ticket price!"  It wasn't until we got home that my daughter realized that it wasn't part of the show and he had actually fallen.  For her sake I'm really glad he wasn't hurt too.  It was inspiring to see him out there having fun and performing in the second half of the show after intermission.  And it reminds me that all these performers must have fallen off of horses so many times.  Just like I used to do when I was a kid.

I think everyone should go see this show.  It's amazing what humans and horses can actually do together.  The level of strength and balance and timing that the performance entails is so inspiring1  Plus, it's just really neat and pretty to look at.  And being in the front like we were another cool effect was when they "made it snow" with soap bubbles and they fell onto the first three rows as well as the stage.  That was pretty cool.  And they dropped paper leaves on us at one point too.

As we were leaving I asked A. "Can you imagine being able to do that?" and she said, "I've never been on a horse in my life," which I found unbelievable! Her teenage daughter is obsessed with horses so I just assumed she'd ridden at least once.  So, I know what I'm getting her for her birthday!  A dressage lesson with Trainer K.!

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