Cavalia’s ODYSSEO: a Destination Event



Dressage on water. Photo by Dan Harper.

A show for lovers of horses, acrobatics, art, and beauty keeps both adults and children mesmerized with its equestrian and stage arts, as well as its high-tech theatrical effects.


Migration. Photo by Jak Wonderly.

For millennia, man has sought to domesticate the horse to exploit its strength, speed, and skill. In taming the equine, man has trained it to transport man and materiel, plow furrows, and attack enemies. But in more recent times, the bond has been explored for entertainment, competition, and leisure – trail riding, racing, dressage, therapy, and more.

And now Cavallia raises the bar to the highest level yet with its stunning ODYSSEO, a production displaying every dimension of the horse’s talent and its relationship to man. Though Cavalia’s production is unique in its own right, its lineage will be clear to many. The equine elements draw strongly on its figurative parent, Vienna’s vaunted Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzaner shows. And while ODYSSEO utilizes different breeds, especially Arabians, Spanish, and Lusitano, it also emphasizes ghostly white/grey steeds like those of its predecessor for group numbers. The dramatic elements of circus and the sheer engineering feats of the production draw on its cultural cousin, Cirque de Soleil, which, like Cavalia, is Montreal based.


Riding braces of horses. Photo by Pascal Rathe.

The show is comprised of 14 varied scenes. This world’s largest touring production begins in a misty enchanted forest. Lavish dreamlike sequences show horses grazing, nuzzling and frolicking. Interactions between people and horses continue with breathtaking backdrops and beautiful landscapes that highlight a grand voyage around the world and through all seasons on a curved projection backdrop. This extravaganza of a show is both imaginative and elegant. Beauty, strength and flexibility of men, women and horses are displayed through a variety of perspectives that morph from the elegance of gentle ballet to the pounding of African drumbeats and acrobatics, to death defying aerial stunts. The performance arena is massive at the outset, and for later scenes the lifting of the rear curtain reveals a hill rising three-stories high constructed with 10,000 tons of rock, earth and sand creating vast space for impressive technical displays.

With and without riders, horse ensembles synchronize into massive pinwheels, twirls, and sprints with the precision of the Rockettes dance line. Of course, athletic showcases often save the best for last, and the latter scenes of ODYSSEO do not disappoint. Trick riding by courageous men and women takes place at high speeds in a tight ring. A single horse and rider put on a truly impressive display of dressage including dainty trotting piaffes, whirling pirouettes, and diagonal walking half-passes. For the finale, the flat portion of the arena is fully flooded creating a lake with 40,000 gallons of water in which many of the challenging activities are performed again.


Jumping. Photo by Dan Harper.

Interspersed with the equine scenes are acrobatic segments. The most entertaining of these is a troupe of tumblers from Guinea accompanied by rapid fire drumming. These pieces demonstrate extreme human physical competence, but their inclusion is opportunistic and would work better if properly integrated into the equine elements.

In addition to some pretty amazing logistic accomplishments, the show includes elaborate costumes, eerie and mystical lighting and sound effects, as well as live music. One shortcoming is the sound mixing during the several songs performed by a female singer. The instrumentation and ambient sound is so loud that it isn’t even clear what language she sings in. If it’s important enough to include vocalization, it’s important enough to make the lyrics understandable.


Riderless horses splashing. Photo by Jak Wonderly.

Children, in particular, are transfixed throughout the show, and they are well behaved as a result.  Some audience members, however, might find a bit of repetition and excess length in the program.  A general admission ticket is sufficient to enter the world’s largest performance tent and be enthralled by the show. However, VIP tickets offer a sumptuous buffet with well prepared food and beverages in the rendezvous tent before the show. VIPs also enjoy the best seats under this air-conditioned big-top; feast on dessert during intermission; and visit horses after the show in their stalls and showers. It’s really a total experience.

ODYSSEO is produced by Cavalia and plays in San Jose at 399 West Julian Street, just west of Guadalupe Parkway through October 16. Their next tour stop is Irvine, California. For specific information on dates and prices, visit or call 866-999-8111.