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SHOW REVIEW: “Cavalia” is a spectacular of horse and man

There’s little more majestic than a horse, nor more mind-boggling than acrobats performing feats the normal human body cannot do.

The two are combined in “Cavalia,” Normand Latourelle’s equestrian/acrobatic extravaganza playing an already extended run through Dec. 30 under the White Big Top in the parking lot adjacent to Petco Park.

Latourelle, one of the founding lights of Cirque du Soleil, offers a visual feast which he describes as “an ode to beauty, a freedom fantasy, a hymn to harmony, one step toward partnership.”

If you’re looking for a history lesson about man’s relationship to the horse, this isn’t it. There is a suggestion of historical time, but no more than that. This is more an appreciation of the species and a celebration of the Comte de Buffon’s comment about man and horse: “The noblest conquest of man is to have gained the friendship of the horse.”

Ever-changing backdrops and projections add visual interest, beginning with animal drawings from the prehistoric Lascaux caves. That gives way to a fall scene with brilliant-colored leaves. There’s a giant projection of a silver horse that moves across the stage. The famous Chinese warrior statues can be seen.

But it’s the horses, riders and acrobats you’re here to see, and they do not disappoint. In addition to 48 horses of 11 breeds, “Cavalia” travels with 34 artists, five instrumentalists and a singer.

The horses are magnificent and well trained, though not always totally cooperative. You’ll see six or eight them moving together in a sort of equine chorus line, or several hitched together and driven by a single rider in a Roman-style chariotless ride.

That Roman section is astonishing, with riders jumping over and riding under limbo stick-like obstacles whose height is moved.

The artists ride, stand up, do backflips, handstands and other impossible feats on horseback. For comic relief, other riders dash across the stage, dangling off their steeds or chasing elusive white scarves.

My favorite act is “La Vida,” in which riders and aerialists seem to connect earth and sky in a blur of motion and color.

There’s something about a horse that commands attention and respect. The Koran had it right: “Horse, thou art truly a creature without equal, for thou fliest without wings and conquerest without sword.”

“Cavalia” is a show like no other, a spectacle worth seeing even if, like me, you can’t shake the niggling conviction that these noble beasts might prefer roaming free to running in circles around a stage.

The San Diego engagement runs through Dec. 30. Ponder if you will their next stop: Australia, and consider the logistics of traveling with 48 horses, 40 humans and all the sets, costumes, seating and other necessities.

See it here while you can.

The details

“Cavalia” plays through Dec. 30 at the White Big Top in the parking lot adjacent to Petco Park downtown.

Tuesday through Friday at 8 pm; some Mondays and Thursdays at 3 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets, call 866-999-8111 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.