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Cavalia, a spectacular celebration of the horse world, opens Nov. 16
By Bruce Bellingham

Sylvia Zerbini and her nine Arabian
horses perform the "Grande Liberté" in Cavalia
photo: Jean-François Leblanc
When Normand Latourelle was only 13 years old, he attended the Montreal Expo. That was in 1967. His mother was a ticket-taker at this world’s fair. She gave him a day pass to keep him occupied, hoping he’d stay out of trouble.

It was no ordinary day for Latourelle. He was dazzled.
“I had never seen anything like that in my life,” says Latourelle. “It changed me forever. I wanted to create a spectacle after what I saw that day.”

And create a spectacle he did. Latourelle grew up to co-create the Cirque de Soleil.

But his latest project – now that he’s departed from the Cirque – is certainly dazzling.

It’s all about horses. Fifty of them, if you can believe that. And 100 actors, acrobats and dancers.

This I’ve got to see.

“I really didn’t know anything about horses,” he says. “After all, I’m a city boy from Montreal. I created Cirque de Soleil keeping mind that it was a circus without animals. I cannot bear the thought of abusing an animal.”

Normand remembered that his grandfather once owned a horse, and that, in a historical sense, men have kept horses longer than they’ve kept dogs.

“Cavalia is not a horse show,” he insists. It’s a show about horses. This is the world of horses, and all of the performers improvise around them. Horses never make mistakes. People make mistakes.”
He says horses are amazingly smart and often get bored like children. He had to find ways to keep the animals engaged.

Latourelle says his show is an excursion through time, through history. It includes the Roman arena (if anyone remembers the movie Ben-Hur, the stallions were stellar). “We even created a village from 100 years ago.”

The Cavalia show embraces nature and includes rain, snow and falling leaves.
“This is a wild departure from Cirque de Soleil,” he explains. “It’s a new type of acrobatics for horses; it’s very poetic. You enter a big poem for your ears and eyes. By the way, speaking of nature, I have learned that horses like rain. They do not like wind. I don’t know why that is.”
Latourelle first brought the show to San Francisco in 2004. But now the show is twice the size it was then. It stars Sylvia Zerbini, the only woman in the world who works with nine Arabian horses.
: the White Big Top adjacent to AT&T Park, Nov. 16–Dec. 12. Tickets $44.50–$239.50 (special pricing available for children and seniors) at 866-999-8111,

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