Carol Lane Patterson


Under It’s Own Big Top


Tentative Run: November 16th to about  December 17th

They may be able to stay longer if they ‘find their audience’ so go see the show, they are looking for you!

An Animal Lover’s Dream – See Something You’ve Not Likely Seen Like This:

Horses ‘at liberty’ without halters, bridles performing on stage—Read on!

Cavalia represents the finest of extravagant, and yet understated, elegance in showmanship. Mesmerizing. Hypnotic. Fascinating. I was absolutely charmed by Cavalia. After watching the show, which evoked such a range of emotions in me, I wondered how my reactions could go skittering off like that. The performances seemed so uncompromising, the interactions of the horses and humans so genuine, the show artistry complimentary to their presence on the stage. What was at work here? It wasn’t just the horses. I was witnessing something unusual; it swept me away. I must be tired, I thought. Those I was with were charmed as well. We’re all tired? No. We were simply enjoying the results of processes set in motion long ago, one person, one horse at a time.


Generational horse fanciers, the Delgados of the Lusitano Horse Farm, in the South of France, were guided by kindness in their horse training and breeding methods. The Delgados have been breeding Lusitano horses for a very long time, with interesting results. Magali Delgado grew up on this farm, steeped in the mentality of her parents. She also raised and trained Lusitanos. She competed in dressage, mastering the rather obscure form Haute École. She met and married Frédéric Pignon, another horse fancier with an unusual mindset and equally impressive resume.


Together, they have been perfecting their own version of ‘Ethological’ methods, relying on body language, a language horses understand. Some would call it Horse Whispering. Horses are a herd animal, they follow their leaders. They follow Magali and Frédéric, natural leaders. The Cavalia horse troupe seems to respond remarkably well to these two. They share trust with their horses. They share trust with each other in their human responsibilities. They are the Equestrian Co-Directors of the show. They have trained other equestrians in their quiet, respectful work. The reward is the phenomenal Cavalia performance troupe.

The practical result is one heck of a show, conceived and created by President and Artistic Director Normand Latourelle. A creative set of professionals were assembled, put their heads together and developed a show truly focused on the beautiful, dignified, compelling creatures we know as horses. This is a show all about the horses. The Cavalia Village exists to showcase these truly remarkable animals and their human friends and co-workers.


The special bonds that grow between horses and humans were more apparent in this troupe than in any horse-focused performance I’ve ever seen. The horses are exceptional and gorgeous, yes. The artists are excellent, yes. And yet, the show will take you beyond the mere trappings. The shimmering sets are artistically suggestive of the best in Nature. Live music underscores the entire experience. Sit in the first six or seven rows and you will be sitting, briefly, on the edge of a light snowfall.


Mother Nature’s cycles waft, season after season; balmy evenings, subtle shifts of a windy day, leaves fall, making way for wintry white, sluiced away by spring showers, dried by summer breezes. Such is the way of nature; such is the awareness of seasonal tranquility as the Cavalia troupe works. Some backdrops denote dense forests, sunny glades, and snowy wooded meadows and all complement the performances.

The show weaves its own magic, a series of whimsical, fanciful artsy vignettes. The horses were in on it. No humans intimidating, bullying. Horses with their heads held high, assisted with spinning tales of delightful beauty, racing and bouncing about the stage, enjoying themselves.

All of the performers, 53 four-legged and 35 two-legged varieties, interact so well together, so obviously in sync; they are also clearly enjoying themselves. Ten breeds of horses, more than half stallions (yup, that ups the difficulty factor) are represented: Appaloosa, Belgian, Canadian, Friesian, Lusitano, Paint, Percheron, Quarter Horse, Spanish and Warmblood. The Lusitano horses all hail from the Delgado Horse Farm. Their Iberian Peninsula heritage as warhorses bred a noble elegance from their legendary courage and bravery. Magali is known to say her parents passed on their legacy of training based on trust and respect: “We can never forget the importance of the relationship with the horse”.

Actually, much of the ‘story’ lines unfold in such breathtaking splendor of horsemanship and sheer horse presence that when these artists ‘cut up—you just have to laugh with them. Horses love to play, and they are encouraged to do so in this troupe. A good deal of the choreography capitalizes on their inclinations...mane tossing, kicking up their heels, clowning, head butting, spontaneous activity, running free, or what they refer to as ‘at liberty’ about the spacious stage.

We were told the training is about communication and bonding—talking, finger and body gestures, that the trainers make a game out of the routines. It takes more time than other training methods, and gives better results. The trainers have established routines with the horses, but the horses are free to express themselves on stage. Watching Frédéric Pignon, with his ‘at liberty’ horses, certainly makes that an understatement. During one ‘at liberty’ vignette with Gracil, a Lucitano sorrel quarter horse, he extended his arms out shoulder height and began to turn—Gracil began to twirl in place. That bit was a crowd pleaser. If you love horses, it doesn’t get better than this experience.

Their ‘Big Top’ traveling showroom, is huge, the largest of its kind, seating 2000 people! During the press preview introduction, President and Artistic Director Normand Latourelle explained some of the conceptual approaches to the showroom’s construction.  Frédéric Pignon had mentioned a horse needs a good one hundred fifty or so feet to achieve that lovely full running speed. Latourelle configured the stage to be longer than that distance—a 160’ long playground. The Big Top design was delineated by the size of the stage, as it takes up half of the structure, the remaining space is for us, the audience. The rows of seats step up sharply, rather like an IMAX auditorium, allowing everyone to be fairly close to the stage, lending an intimate theatre feel to the whole presentation.

Director of the show, and Visual Designer Erick Villeneuve “imagined the show’s ‘atmosphere’ with a poetic vision”. His backdrops along the 210’ length of the rear stage change up for each vignette of the program. Entrancing video projections of various graphical illustrations he had collected and some artwork which he commissioned for the show were 210’ technological wonders: flowing masses of stars, glowing freestyle graphics, friezes, stone work, and more. For other vignettes, screen painted panels hung the full length, painting wide swaths of beauty—shadowy woods beyond which were sunlit glades, masonry arches through which glimpses of high cirrus clouds could be seen. Marc Labelle is the Scenic Artist, builder of arching ramps, sandy beaches, ‘trees’, columns, all the underpinnings of the scenes.

Lighting, (Alain Lortie, Lighting Designer) from darkness to bright arena glare, encompassed every nuance of color and brightness for scene after scene, subtle moods coalescing with the haunting musical score by Michel Cusson, composer. Live music is always such a gift, and six talented musicians ‘behind the curtain’ played an impressive array of instruments. As impressive as Yo Yo Ma, Josiane Bell’s execution of Cusson’s music set the bar high, as did Sandrine Quirion on the Oboe. Exquisite vocals echoed on stage. Marie-Soleil Dion as she moved about, strategically positioned for each scene, was intrinsic to the presentation.

Nearly 30 acrobats, aerialists, dancers and trick riders appear. To a man, they all perform flawlessly, and with a good deal of enthusiasm and humor, pleasure evident. What a gift to watch them in action.

Anecdotes from the post-show Press Corps visit


We all gathered ‘round afterwards, at the edge of the stage, to visit with Normand Latourelle, et al. Two of the horses, Aetes (sounds like Itis) and Bandolero ‘hung out’ with us, as our questions were answered, moving in and out of conversations, interested in everything going on.

The ‘lead’ performer, Frédéric Pignon, the Cavalia ‘Horse Whisperer’ himself was quite forthcoming, impressive, as he also was attentive to Aetes, who remained ‘at liberty’ for this little mingle, mingle here, mingle, mingle there.  I asked him if the ‘energy’ in the tent felt differently when 2000 people are banked up the rows. Pignon acknowledged that it is different, and all of them are a bit tense while waiting. It is very similar for horse and human preparing to perform, “You know how you feel, a bit excited, maybe breathing a bit shallow (hand at his rib cage) while you are waiting, to get out on stage...the horses feel the same way...once they are out here, just like us, they are fine, we are all having fun and doing our thing”. Smiling at Aetes, “None of us like the waiting”. He said they “are all very quiet prior to performances, the stable staff, the whole village. All the performers are doing calming work...Yoga, Reiki and Massage...all of the performers, horses and humans”.


I mentioned being told by the publicist, Gabrielle Pauzé, that well-known holistic practitioner Linda Tellington Jones consults with the troupe.  Pignon acknowledged with a big smile, “ Yes she comes to visit us often...she has many techniques, for instance, doing this is very calming to the horse”. Attentive to Aetes the entire chat with us, his hands always touching, petting, guiding...I wasn’t immediately aware he was demonstrating by rubbing Aetes’ gums...and that Aetes was loving it. He smiles, “We have chiropractors for the troupe, as well.” He and his Co-Director, wife Magali Delgado, are responsible for the 53 horses, of ten different breeds, along with the challenges of including so many stallions. Their proud, thick curved necks are very showy, and yet that pride offers challenges...well worth the effort, as you watch them on stage.

Las Vegas! Go See This Show! Get the Word Out!

Vegas is at its finest when It can command the interest of show producers around the world and convince them to bring their shows here. We, as locals, are so lucky to have, literally in our backyards, such high caliber Broadway, specialty and extravaganza productions come to take a gamble on our Vegas venues. We simply must vote with our attendance, to keep the elaborate and the elegant, the cultured and the varied, setting up ‘shop’ here in our town. They keep trying and we have to give them our attention when they are here.

Cavalia is exactly one of those high quality shows—with an unfortunate twist—it is a show on tour, with other places to go, if we don’t bring them the audiences. 1.2 million people have seen it to date. Their next stop is in Europe, March 8th where they will be on tour for three years. I suspect they will push on east, for years to come.

Their stay in Las Vegas can be extended if word of mouth gets out and they ‘find their audience’, the new Vegas producer’s nightmare cliché.

We support cultural extravagance like Cavalia by our attendance. Here’s a Wow factor for you. The 53 horses of the Cavalia troupe consume 1,750 pounds of chopped carrots, 36,500 pounds of grains and 17,500 bales of hay annually. The Cavalia Village comprises seven tents, including the 10-story high Big Top, requiring 150 people 12 days to erect. That’s a lotta carrots. Bring Mula.


Photo credits for Cavalia

Show photos by Frédéric Chéhu & Lynn Glazer

Post Show photos by Carol Lane Patterson

Guy Deschênes
Robert Zucherman
On-Tour Publicist
Gabrielle Pauzé
(702) 806-2410
[email protected]
Las Vegas
Preferred Public Relations & Marketing
Daniel Kay
(702) 254-5704
[email protected]


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