March 22, 2012            Slept like a rock this morning, as did, I imagine, the 38 athletes accompanying 49 equine artists into whose theater I adventured last evening. Having been, all of us, so thoroughly stimulated, engaged and satisfied by the St Louis Premiere of Cavalia, how could we not?

And now, sun prying through morning rains, I find myself still floating in the magical dreamscape that envelopes Cavalia’s artful illumination of the timeless, universal relationship between humans and horses in an exuberant celebration of the gymnastic abilities of both species, together and separately.

Overture to Michel Cusson’s score, orchestrated by a quintet of three guitars, percussion and an apparently golden cello is sung in French and Spanish by Marie-Eve Bedard, and danced by a troupe of acrobats as “Prologue.” In next light a ‘prop’ magically appears center stage. Soon a solo horse wanders casually toward it to graze, as wood nymph Jennifer L’ecuyer, in “Discovery” is beguiled, and beguiles the horse. Only for the three – horse, nymph, and “prop” –  to disappear…leaving the audience in suspended disbelief. And me to ask, later, “how’d that happen?” (Of course I am not going to name the “prop” …why spoil your fun?)

Frankly, I can’t hope to recall well enough to describe the progression of scenes as they unfurled one into another…fluently to apt punctuations.

Scenes I remember best are Thomas Aubron at liberty with a paint I filmed in preview

The the pas de deux of Tatiana Daviaud and Elise Verdonq, dubbed “Le Mirior,” which included collected and lateral walk figures, canter circles, piaffe and passage. Here’s a window:

The “Pied Percussion” through which Gregory Molina Spanish- Walked and Canter Half-Passed Gracioso and Elise Verdonq and Gisele Lemans piaffed Armas and Pirata amidst multiple animated tableau.

The ” Carousel” of six greys performing leg yields and half-pass in walk and trot, both abreast and in radial synchrony, and canter eights with synchronized changes.

For “The Haute Ecole,” lights come up on Gregory Molina astride dark, noble, Gracioso flanked by greys Nacardo II and Goloso, long reined almost imperceptibly from the wings by Laura Baubry and Tatiana Daviaud, all, simultaneously, in piaffe. The greys exit and Gregory and Gracioso exhibit classically correct collections, extensions and lateral movements, a long interlude of Spanish Walk including a Spanish Walk circle without reins, piaffe pirouette, segued by dramatically dashing extended canter.

I’d have thought “The Haute Ecole” was the climax of the show, and certainly it was for some of the audience.

But then Elise Veronq sent five dark bay Spanish Purebreds onto the stage, where they made themselves comfortable rolling in  black cedar mulch footing, claimed their herd order, and eventually acknowledged Elise’s direction at liberty. Realizing that directing exercise at liberty is always ad lib, and that the equine participants are horses, not automatons, I was delighted by Elise’s exhibition of patience and grace as, for example, the leader jumped from lower onto upper stage, with the next in line clearly thinking about, but reticent to follow. Knowing from practical experience that liberty trooping is always a work in progress, I was charmed by the authenticity of the scene. And so, for some of us, this was the climax.

But then came blistering forth and back across front stage, the “Trick Riders,” thrilling even the most jaded of us.

And then the Bungee Cavaliers, which I am not even going to try to describe. I can only say that it was all happening, everywhere two eyes could see.

I must admit that I am awed by Cavalia. Awed by its scale, scope, technical and artistic achievement.

Suffice it to say, “This is too much for television.”

You gotta be there.

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