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Cavalia equestrian performing arts show features a variety of dazzling entertainment

A trick rider performs acrobatics on his horse as part of the Cavalia equestrian performing arts show. The show opens Thursday and will run through Feb. 12. - Chad Coleman, Redmond Reporter
A trick rider performs acrobatics on his horse as part of the Cavalia equestrian performing arts show. The show opens Thursday and will run through Feb. 12.
— image credit: Chad Coleman, Redmond Reporter

From trick riders performing acrobatics atop speeding horses, to performers swinging through the air on flying trapezes, “Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Man and Horse” has something for horse lovers and non-horse lovers alike to enjoy.

The show will be under the White Big Top at Marymoor Park at 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Pkwy N.E. near Redmond begins Friday, but a special preview show was held Tuesday for local media, community leaders and members of the local equestrian world.

“Cavalia” is an equestrian and performing arts show, which features live music and multimedia special effects.

“There’s so much more here for everybody,” said performer Fairland Ferguson.

Ferguson is a trick and Roman rider for the show.

With the former, she performs flips and twists while riding a horse that is speeding across the arena. While some tricks require riders to be strapped to the horses by their feet, Ferguson said they are not strapped in to the point where they cannot fall.

“Trick riding is very technical,” she said.

Roman riding consists of performers standing with each foot on a horse as the two animals run side by side around the arena. Ferguson is the only female Roman rider in the show and in addition to her two horses, she acquires four more through some tricky maneuvering with other performers and steers all six horses around the arena.

“It’s a lot of thinking and control and concentrating,” she said. “Your mind does not wander when you Roman ride.”

“Cavalia” began touring in 2003 and came to the Pacific Northwest – its run was in Renton – in 2004. The show was created in Montreal, Quebec by Normand Latourelle, who cofounded Cirque du Soleil in 1985.

Latourelle said the idea for an equestrian-based show came during the run of another show, which featured a horse during a short scene. That first show evolved to include more horses and Latourelle said the animals always stole the scene, which planted those first seeds for “Cavalia.”

“I just realized that the horse was the most beautiful animal on earth,” Latourelle said, adding how he felt compelled to do a show featuring horses.

As he began researching the topic, a process that took about five years, Latourelle said he learned that the horse has been man’s companion throughout the ages.

“Man wouldn’t be here without the horse,” he said.

It took another five years to actually create the show and Latourelle kept in mind the relationship between humans and horses throughout the whole process. The show illustrates the human-horse relationship through time – from the first encounter with wild horses to cowboys in the Wild West. There is no real storyline for the show, but Latourelle said like a poem, the performance will evoke different moods, emotions and feelings among audiences during the show as they cover about 5,000 years in two-hours (with a 30-minute intermission).

“Cavalia” was the first time Latourelle created a show in which animals played a big role. A performance usually features 35-38 horses, but there are 46 horses total in their stable. The show features 11 breeds of horses mainly from Spain, but some horses come from the south of France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Canada or the United States. The show horse’s average age is 8.

Latourelle said his first priority in creating the show was making sure the horses were treated right and that they remained horses, not animals who obeyed humans. He said each horse spends about five minutes performing and about 20 minutes working, or training. However, the horses need to exercise and kept in shape as well – especially the trick-riding horses as they do a lot of running.

Latourelle said the humans who perform on the horses take a long time to train and practice before they are ready to perform. He said they have acrobats who become riders and perform their tricks on the horses, which usually takes at least a year to perfect. And for riders to become acrobats on their horses, it’s a little less, about five to six months.

“Cavalia” will be at Marymoor through Feb. 12 with performances usually running Tuesday through Sunday.

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