The Law of 4 feet, really

Alan Stewart alan at
Fri Dec 3 01:49:03 PST 2004

G'day All

Here is an item in which the Law of 4 Feet is illustrated very nicely. 

You may wish to go first to the end of the article to see what I am alluding to.

I wonder if you see the allusion as metaphorical or, as Florian pleaded for 

so eloquently, the real thing!? 

"why, oh why we like so much
to look on something
as if it is like another something
why, oh why we speak
about something
as if it is like another something 

>snip ...."

From: "Florian Fischer" <ff at>
Subject: Re: Metaphors for the magic?
Date: Sunday, 31 October 2004 8:46 AM

Looking forward ...





      November 30, 2004
      The Stage Is Set: Enter Horses at Full Gallop

      SANTA MONICA, Calif. - On the beach near the Santa Monica Pier, Normand Latourelle is successfully growing a small pasture of grass for his horses, all 37 of them.

      Mr. Latourelle, a founder of the Cirque du Soleil who is taking an elaborate new equestrian-based circuslike extravaganza called "Cavalia" on tour, is a detail man who decided that since horses like grass, grass they shall have, even on a beach. "The city authorities, they said I was insane, but I found the right sod and seeds to order, and look: grass," he said, showing off the sprouting green blades. 

      "In a week or two, horses can graze on this," said Mr. Latourelle, a 49-year-old Canadian. He created "Cavalia," which is being presented through Jan. 2 inside a huge, 90-foot-high white canvas tent pitched like a multitowered sand castle on the beach here. 

      The show, with its cavorting horses and troupe of 32 riders, aerialists and acrobats who perform feats against swirling images projected on a screen, has been selling out most of its 1,900 seats nightly since it opened here on Nov. 10. Ticket prices range from $62 to $92 for all but a special section of special-package seats. Mr. Latourelle said he expected to bring "Cavalia" - pronounced ca-VA-lya - to New York in the spring. 

      In 1985, Mr. Latourelle helped push the Quebec-bred Cirque du Soleil from a motley collection of acrobats, jugglers, clowns and other street performers into an international big-top phenomenon. 

      He has replicated some of the Cirque atmospherics for "Cavalia." But there is a big difference. While Cirque does not use animals, "Cavalia" luxuriates in the horse. 

      Mr. Latourelle left Cirque in 1990. When deliberating on the current project, he and his companion and business partner, Dominique Day, decided that horses were just the thing, though neither knew much about them. 

      One thing Mr. Latourelle did know: performing horses, shackled to bits and reins and obediently repeating tricks as they circled a ring, would not do. He wanted horses that would express the idea of freedom. 

      This concept - the horse unfettered - has its charms but also poses some challenges, especially considering that stallions were to be the stars in "Cavalia." 

      "You know about stallions?" Ms. Day asked with a small laugh on opening night this month as she and Mr. Latourelle watched the equestrian co-director and principal trainer, Frederic Pignon, work with a gray Lusitano stallion in a training ring in the expansive side tent where the horses are stabled. 

      Any experienced rider knows about stallions. Most important is the fact that these proud, muscular, unneutered male horses are intensely competitive, in a ring or on a racetrack. Riding a stallion in the company of other stallions is not to be done lightly, since macho horse-to-horse grudges can become suddenly, brutally physical. 

      The "Cavalia" herd consists of hardy breeds: swift quarter horses; fast, agile Arabians; proud Lusitanos; and big, steady Percherons. Eighteen are stallions and the rest are geldings: neutered males, still strong and sometimes willful, but without that fierce stallion temperament. 

      "Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Man and Horse" is being promoted as a celebration of the unique emotional and physical bonds between humans and the animals. The performance is presented on a 150-foot-wide stage: 150 feet is about the length a galloping horse needs to create a blazing blur under the swirling lights, as riders and soaring aerialists perform their stunts. 

      Nonriders in the audience applaud loudest for the high-flying riders' acrobatics. But experienced riders, who began talking about the show during earlier performances in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego, can be heard murmuring appreciatively at stunts that would be considered virtually impossible in show competition or dressage. 

      Here is one you won't see at the Olympics: a rider plants a leg on each back of a cantering pair as they circle the stage and jump a five-foot-high hurdle while the rider executes a somersault and manages to land, upright, in the original position. 

      Another act is more subtle. Mr. Pignon cavorts with three unfettered white stallions onstage, putting them through dressage paces. Mr. Pignon, a soft-spoken horseman who says that the only way to train a horse is with patience and gentleness to build mutual respect, then has each animal lie down, side by side. In turn, he asks each to get up. Two do. The gag is that the third, a big, splendid Lusitano, refuses importunings to arise. 

      "That's the hardest trick in the show," a horsewoman in the audience whispered on opening night when the stallion finally jumped up and joined his two companions in a wild, rearing finale.

      "Cavalia," with its herd and its 100-strong company of performers, trainers, grooms, stagehands and others, was expensive to mount. It took six years and $27 million before it opened last year in Canada. "Raising the financing was the longest part, but of course that allowed me a lot of time to think about what I wanted," Mr. Latourelle said. 

      Both "Cheval," another horse-themed circus created by a Cirque alumnus, and "Zingaro," a French horse circus, failed to attract a sizable following in the United States. At each, horses performed in traditional circus rings. 

      "We certainly didn't want to have a circus with horses in a ring going round and round for two hours," Ms. Day said.

      Though many of the horses in "Cavalia" do in fact perform fitted with saddles, reins and bits, Mr. Latourelle insisted that the show hew to a narrative of the horse as free spirit. The concept blossomed fully on a trip to France, where he and Ms. Day looked up Mr. Pignon and his wife, Magali Delgado, who are prominent breeders and trainers of Lusitanos.

      "At their farm in the south of France, I was expecting to see the usual things - riding horses in the round," Mr. Latourelle said. "Instead, Fred brought three stallions to the field and started to run and play with them. For me, the script was partly written right then: the dream for freedom. I said, this is the story we have to tell, that it is possible to be in a good relationship with horses in which there is mutual respect and a sense of the possibilities of freedom."

      He was sold when Ms. Delgado put one of her Lusitanos through its paces using finger and body gestures. She is a fearless rider who performs precise dressage movements on a stallion, without reins or bit, and then gallops bareback merrily around the stage. The four quickly teamed up. 

      A major part of the training philosophy is that respect is owed the wills, temperaments and moods of a horse. "The stallions know they can just walk off that stage if they want," Ms. Day said. 

      Each performance of "Cavalia" is predicated on the possibility that at least one horse might well decide he is tired or bored and simply say, "Goodnight," Mr. Latourelle said. "This is not my night. I'm out of here." 


      Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | RSS | Help | Back to Top 


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