Experiencing Cavalia – Opening Gala Night

I was prepared for a wonderful evening of entertainment, but I didn’t expect how superlative the experience would be.

Coined by the show’s founder Normand Latourelle, “Cavalia” is a fabricated word, inspired by the Spanish and French words for horse (caballo and cheval) and the English word cavalry.

The setting was romantic, with our CBD skyscrapers and their many lights (poor folks still at work) forming the backdrop to the gleaming white tent, the largest touring tent in the world. The opening gala night marks not only the show’s premiere in Singapore, but also their first in the whole of Asia!

Ultimately, it was the full-house atmosphere within that made the show electrifying. The trapeze ladies glided so gracefully, but I was more than aware of how much athleticism goes behind those seemingly effortless sweeps and drops. 
The tension in those thick ropes had to be just right too, to allow comfortable manoeuvring and yet hold them secure. No safety nets, no soft floor mats.

All an indication of how experienced and thoroughly trained these artists must be. 

It is humbling to witness them seemingly risk life and limb to bring this show to us. But I suppose for them, there’s no place they’d rather be, than proudly displaying their art, their death-defying stunts, their prowess borne of sheer hard work.

And so we watched, awed by scenes such as the four person high human pyramid, the man who somersaulted off and back on a galloping steed, the lady standing on two horses whilst holding on the reins of six, as all six leapt over a raised wooden beam.

Roman-riding – standing on two horses.


Pieds Percussion

Bareback riding

I am no equestrian, but have read about sporting events such as dressage (“horse ballet”). To watch a horse prance so daintily for such an extended time – it was not hard to believe that the training could indeed take up to ten years, as explained by the Cavalia folks. The horse and rider pair at dressage were performing with such equanimity that it made me wonder if they were former Olympians.
Quite a few items were mesmerising, as the horses almost hypnotically arranged themselves around the performer, and did fanciful things like turn full circle (learnt that the technical term is indeed “pirouette”!), at his gentle command. There was also some good-natured buffoonery, which added some levity to the entertainment.

Majestic beauties.

The changes in backdrop (hand-painted pictures and sometimes video projections) brought the audience from one world to another. At one point, recycled water (120,000 litres!) were slowly pumped into the stage to create a magical lake. From where I was sitting, it looked like the tide was slowly coming in. At one point, foamy-flakes of “snow” also drifted down on the audience in the first 10 rows, making it a multi-sensory experience indeed!

True to form as a world-class act, the ‘live’ musicians and singer (lyrics were in Spanish or French) produced amazing musical accompaniment to the acrobatics. Perched 4 metres high, behind the colossal screen, the ‘live’ band reacts to the changes in a show, according to how the horses feel that day, since their moods can be unpredictable.

The thought of “Gosh, these guys are crazy!” passed through my mind repeatedly, and you can see why.
What struck me the most was how the trainers interacted with their horses. Their training is premised on talking to the horses and understanding them, rather than getting them to obey through fear. During an early item of the evening, we witnessed how the artists slowed down, calmed a horse down and simply let him chill, before resuming their routine to a stunning finish.

A man and his friends

It was evident that no horse is being made to do these performances against their will, and that there was such a warm, friendly relationship between the humans, mere dwarfs at the sides of these muscular, large creatures. Applause was also duly and frequently directed to the stars of the show, these gallant and majestic creatures.

Animal lovers can rest assured that the horses are well taken care of whilst touring. In their large stable, they each have a stall with large windows so that they can see and communicate with their neighbours. When the show moves from one city to the next, the horses go on ‘vacation’ so they can rest and graze peacefully!

The expansive 50 metre-wide stage functions as the horses’ playground, allowing them space to gallop at full speed, at times running completely free, unfettered by bridles or halters. In fact most of the riders leapt up and down running horses with nary a saddle, wow.

Lasso magic

Due to an unexpected turn of events, I had really awesome seats. Suffice to say that the CEO of STB was seated in the row in front of me, and Pan Ling Ling (and family) as well as Mr Brown (and lovely wife) were seated behind me. And as if it couldn’t get any better, I saw Vincent Ng in the flesh. You couldn’t have found a more star-struck person in my row (other than yours truly). It was also from this fantastic vantage point that I was privileged to catch the best that the show had to offer.

Reminded me of the Elgin Marbles

The entire cast deserved every bit of the standing ovation that the entire awed and appreciative audience gave, at the end of this spectacular performance. Bravo!

Cavalia runs till Sunday 14th September, and you can get your tickets here. Tickets are priced between $58 and $188. There are also special packages such as the Horse Lovers Package at $208-$248, where patrons get great seats, plus a tour of Cavalia’s stables after the show.

A review by my friend at PrincessDanaDiaries has loads of useful info – hop on over to read it!

Note: We received tickets for the purpose of this review. All images are courtesy of Cavalia, as no photography was allowed during the performance so as not to startle our equine friends.

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