There are some who will dismiss Cavalia's peculiar mix of ethereal dream-sequences and interspecies gamboling as little more than overpackaged sentiment. This is no doubt a comfortable refuge for those hardened souls whose hearts, like the lonely Voyager 2 spacecraft, have long since passed beyond reach of all but the slightest human communication. For the rest of us, watching Cavalia is to recover something of our humanity, like a gentle reawakening after a long and empty sleep.
Philosophers unbeguiled by the hubris of mankind's rationality and will to power have long appreciated the virtues of opening ourselves to the quiet company of other creatures. If we let them, our fellow animals remind us of who we are by showing us what we are not, while holding out a promise of what we could be.
Cavalia is that promise brought to life and held before us for two and half hours. An equestrian ballet, Normand Latourelle's creation's greatest achievement is to reveal to us the grace and beauty of the horse, not as an object of human gaze, but as himself. The fairytale settings, world rhythms and human acrobatics, delightful as they are, serve mostly as a counterpoint to the natural movement of the animals, which we are given ample opportunity to enjoy in full flight.
I've read some reviews that say it's not entertaining enough – they have missed the point. To be entertained is to be passive – performance art requires us to give something back. It is to the performers' credit that they know how to channel the crowd's energy. What could have been a series of scripted prompts for applause instead became a connection between performers and audience, a two-way warmth of oohs, ahhs and smiles that suggested genuine enjoyment.
The best moments of Cavalia happen when a tightly choreographed dressage sequence eventually gives way to a few minutes of literally unbridled joy. It is a microcosm of the overall experience. Through various settings and civilisations, humans and horses have gone round and round together for centuries. With intense cooperation, it becomes possible to accomplish things neither could have done alone. But in the moment of ultimate freedom, all that counts is respect.
The sheer, flowing physicality of Cavalia is a pleasure to take in. And sometimes the most powerful intellectual message needs an emotional medium to communicate. Let Cavalia convey you there.
Venue: White big top | 473-507 Docklands Drive, Docklands, VIC
Dates: July 24 – Aug 18, 2013
Tickets: $349 – $44
Bookings: 1800 765 955