Horses prepare for stardom in Beijing
Normand Latourelle, co-founder of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, has dreamed of coming to China since childhood.
“I once asked my mother: ‘ How can I get to China.’ She said: ‘Dig a hole in the kitchen, and you will be there at the end of it’,” Latourelle recalls.
Decades later, he has not just arrived in China but also brought his 30 horses, who are the stars of Latourelle’s brainchild — the multimedia spectacular, Cavalia.
Cooperating with the Chinese investment company Sinocap, Latourelle and his team, including his son and tour manager, Mathieu Latourelle, will stage the show in Beijing from April 28 toMay 8.
Cavalia is a mix of acrobatics and equestrian arts, and Chinese audiences will enjoy it in a white tent, called the “big top”, that covers more than 2,000 square meters and is pitched at a height of 35 meters in Beijing’s Chaoyang Park.
During a recent visit to a farm more than 40 kilometers from downtown Beijing where the horses are kept, Latourelle says that he found the animals were resting and grazing peacefully there.
Most of the equestrian team of about 20, including a veterinarian, health technicians, grooms and a farrier, are training the horses on a daily basis. Each horse performs for roughly 12 minutes. The rest of their daily activities include warmups, recouping, grooming, going to the paddocks outside and free time.
“The Cavalia approach is based on training methods designed to make sure the horses enjoy training as well as performing onstage. The horse training is based upon a philosophy of understanding the needs, the preferences and the emotions of the four-legged stars,” says Latourelle, who has 46 years of experience in creating and staging live spectacles.
Cavalia was born as an idea around 15 years ago to pay tribute to the bond between the animals and people.
Keith Dupont is one of the riders in the Beijing performance. The Belgian joined in Cavalia five years ago and quickly became a star in the show due to his gentle, patient and effective way of communicating with the horses. He is working with six to eight Arabian horses.
“I love the horses and the stage. The job is a perfect combination for me,” he says. “Each horse has a different personality. Some are curious, and some are aggressive.”
Latourelle says: “Keith communicates with the horses with soft voice commands and body movements. He is on the ground, and the horses have no saddle, no rope, no bridle, nothing. It’s a very beautiful and emotional number in the show.”
Chinese director-actorZhangGuoli attended the ticket-sale launching ceremony in Beijing onMarch 17. He says he was amazed when he watched the show in Canada.
“I am very eager to watch it again in Beijing. It’s a huge operation to bring the show to Beijing — for example, there are more than 4,000 tons of sand in the venue.”