Review: Cavalia


Credit: Ashley Tanasiychuk

As far as ancient partnerships go, humans and horses have a long and colorful heritage, and one containing just as much magic and emotion as portrayed in the current production of Cavalia.

A product of Cirque du Soleil maestro Normand Latourelle, Cavalia boasts a massive roster of performers, both human and equine. From the 49 horses, 33 performers, six musicians and countless hundreds of support crew and personnel, to its claim as “the largest touring big top tent in North America”, it’s no wonder that Cavalia is one of the most impressive spectacles to ever grace Vancouver.

And the support from local audiences indicates this run will live up to Cavalia’s storied fame. In operation for seven consecutive years, and performed in more than 30 cities to 2.5 million plus viewers, the pairing of Cirque-style aerial performers with breathtaking equines and riders, displayed in an extravagant theatrical production, has made it the most successful travelling equine show in history.



Credit: Ashley Tanasiychuk

While the dancers, tumblers and musicians are captivating and provide much appreciated color in this show, the true stars are undoubtedly the horses. While many patrons might not know the difference between a Lusitano and an Andalusian, all would agree that the exotic and powerful presence of these stallions is impactful in an almost primal way. The history of horses and their truly amazing partnership with humans was Latourelle’s initial inspiration for Cavalia, and one that is not lost on even the most technologically advanced urbanite among us.

Gasps of awe and admiration were heard through out the big top on opening night, and not just from the children present. Grown men and women were heard marveling over the sheer beauty, impressive builds and compliant natures of our marvelous equine counterparts.

The show consisted of two parts, each having eight acts with diverse narratives and widely varied themes. In the first half, the audience witnessed scenes in which dancers and tumblers entertained, while bareback riders thrilled with vaulting tricks and tumbles. In Le Vida, we were treated to the handsome pair of Spanish couples, who combined mounted work in the round with a stunning and colorful aerial display. The Roman riders thrilled with a grand spectacle of a daring race – all while balanced precariously astride two, four or even six galloping steeds.


Credit: Ashley Tanasiychuk

In the Grande Liberte, trained and performed by accomplished equestrian and horsewoman Sylvia Zerbini, nine full-grown Arabian stallions and geldings were seen to be completely under the spell of their human trainer, without straps or tack of any kind. Moving completely free, in effortless circles around Zerbini, they seemed like nine compliant children, all eagerly trying their best to please an exacting but still sweetly indulgent parent.

The horses were seen cantering, performing pivots, pinwheels and advanced movements like passade and levade – all on seemingly invisible cues from their handler. Even the one defiant dappled grey stallion was no match for her patient and loving attention. After boasting his superior running and jumping skills over the rest of the herd, he calmly returned to the fold to perform the completing movements of the scene. Zerbini, a youthful pixie in appearance, seemed so at home with the nine animals in this dreamy setting, it was like watching a fairy tale in motion.


Credit: Ashley Tanasiychuk

Other fairy-tale moments would definitely include the act Le Miroir, an exquisitely costumed and choreographed pas de deux, in which two white-clad Renaissance princesses and their snow-white mounts performed a series of Haute École dressage movements. Their steps were impeccably timed and placed, to appear to the audience as if the two riders and their dancing horses were mirror images. Peering through the mist, the feminine and the equine elements merged in an amazing and accomplished display of both the art of theatre and the even older art of horsemanship.


Credit: Ashley Tanasiychuk

Cavalia runs March 21st through April 17th at the Cavalia Big Top in the Olympic Village. Tickets are available online at or through the Big Top box office.

Regular tickets are priced from $54.50 to $99.50. For guests desiring an extraordinary outing, the show can be customized for an extended experience from $129.50 to $189.50, including a Horse Lovers Package that lets patrons tour Cavalia’s stables after the show, and the VIP Rendez-Vous Package that includes a tour of the stables post-show, a cocktail/dinner reception, and much more.

Special pricing is available for children (2-12), juniors (13-17), and senior citizens (65+). Prices are excluding taxes and service charges.

For a detailed list of show dates and reservations call 1-866-999-8111 or visit


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