Odysseo transported and hypnotized with enchantment last night, an experience with flying beauties human and equine which opened on a Heavenly San Francisco evening under the white Big Top. The glorious night filled with magic, breathtaking moves, power, speed and daring with the creator, Normand Latourelle also of Cirque du Soleil, appearing humbly and quietly in his tennis shoes after the show in the VIP tent. The boyish 60 year old who has made his entire life cirque stood near a screen with Odysseo scenes, agreeing ‘they did good’ and nodding yes with a smile. ‘They’ would be 65 horses from around the world as well as 45 stage talents from around the world, emerging from panoramic worlds from a curved screen the size of three drive-in movies from which spilled grassy meadows, dessert sands, African savannah and ultimately a real water lake flowing out of nowhere like a dream. The love spilled over. Big time, full hearted, foot stomping, cheering love.
Around the world through time and beyond
The evening would go around the wide open spaces of the world, through time and space, literally into the Heavens and the world of the gods. The first half would bring The Fairies, with young women with flowing hair and serene smiles and dreamy white capes floating past, each fairy astride two parallel and matching horses. The Village Celebration meant bounding bouncing leaping bare chested natives ever raising the bar. One zealous and broad chested blond man with a pony tail would almost end up in the trees and did once bounce flat onto his back, returning to his stilts instantly and undaunted. All just part of the playful competition.
Elise Verdoncq changed the tempo and tone completely entering with surreal and silent dapple gray Arabians running at liberty or so it seemed. One did bare his teeth and charge at another just trying to do his job. You just never know, there’s always one. It’s real and unfettered. Later she would return on the exquisite Omerio with his long gray mane to solo in the lake in ‘The Great Adventure’, in which she starts on a hilltop in silhouette performing in place. The Nomads would follow in the desert sands, with gentle breezes blowing the sand on screen. Cossacks in jewel toned robes that draped over the back half of the horse performed dressage drills in the bright sun. Alain Lortie, lighting designer.
The Big Top, a spectacular quarter mile around, filled the grandstands to capacity and behind a scrim, a thin veil of enchanted forest, single horses of ‘The Herd’ trotted into the open field in front of ancient stone carvings like totem heads side by side. Instantly the audience connected to something timeless and primal. The young human performers arrived in primitive costumes draped and flowing, tiny braids in their hair. Humans and horses connect instantly, with Brennan Figari center stage kneeling in front of his horse, which bows it’s head to nuzzle him gently. Silently the members of the herd began moving singly with horses following playful humans who mimic their frolicking, the horses joining into matching pairs and then foursomes and all moving in patterns and interweaving circles then a dressage line spinning from the center horse.
One beauty did decide to take a moment and stand alone above it all on this hillside before being encouraged to rejoin the herd. During the show things would happen, but the show essentially presented real horse behavior such as a pair continuing to nip playfully at each other with neither backing down. Natural clowns. Somehow this show, by introducing such playful antics in strong and beautiful creatures moving freely and looking wild and unbroken, connects instantly with the childlike part of the human soul. Even if one goes into this show with serious thoughts on the mind, the power and movement mesmerizes, hypnotizes and transforms and one walks out exhilarated and triumphant.
Carosello and The Storm with aerialists and horses, local Brennan Figari
Brennan Figari, the aerialist from Woodacre in Marin County of the north San Francisco Bay, has been with Odysseo for five years. He appeared throughout the show, performing next in ‘Carosello’ a duet on rotating poles of the rotating carousel which descended from the Heavens like a gift from the gods. He and his partners in this aerial dance performed jaw-dropping and precise holds with balletic grace, the elegant choreography performed by several lithe couples. The dreamy singer looked like a primitive goddess and rode on the platform. She’s the dark haired and braided beauty Valentina Spreca, who sings in Italian. Choreography of Carosello by Elsie Morin.
Related: Brennan Figari of Odysseo
Figari appeared like a soloist in ‘The Storm’, again as Valentina Spreca sang like a siren. Figari front and center gripped the audience as an aerialist in a steel hoop 45 feet in the air. His grace and precision, his agility and lithe physique to match his stream of movements, appeared fluid in the hoop, a ribbon in the wind. However. The control and command seemed natural to him, as if he was born to be airborne. Figari would appear one final time in the hoop which would also lower to let him dance on water, in the signature piece at the end, Odysseo. The hillside and lake filled with galloping horses and riders, bounding and waving acrobats; Dressage and trick horses, acrobats and aerialists.
‘The Angels’ brought four female acrobats who spread their wings and performed on tissues, white angels wrapped and suspended on white ribbons. Male riders on horseback circled below holding white tissues, pulling the angels in a circle faster and faster as Valentina Spreca sang. The precision and trust in this one dazzled with all the moving elements and intricate maneuvers of the foursomes, angels, riders and horses. Alain Gauthier, choreographer of the angels.
Tickets range from $44.50 to $264.50 plus applicable taxes and fees. Special pricing and packages are available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+). Parking is $25 but some street parking and cheaper lots are around China Basin, perhaps at Fourth and Brannan where there’s a Starbucks and a restroom.
Odysseo opened Thursday evening and runs through January 11, 2016. Odysseo performs matinees at 2 pm some days and at 8 pm for evening shows. Here is the calendar. Tickets may be purchased from the call center, open 8 am to 10 pm; the box office on site in China Basin from 10 am to 7 pm; or on line. One may bike from Embarcadero BART easily to AT&T park or get there on foot, pedicab or Muni along the Embarcadero. A collection of permanent food trucks set up next to the park and there’s Java cafe at South Beach marina with outside cafe tables.
The VIP tent called Rendevous is worth the money with an unlimited and extravagant buffet and at intermission, an extravagant assortment of bite size desserts. The tent seems comfortable, fairly quiet and softly lit, decorated with paintings of the horses. The two long buffet tables hold the same offerings, which on opening night included grilled steak, Tandoori chicken, Poke, kale salad, hummus, salad with salmon, cold shrimp and shrimp sauce, pizza bites, gazpacho with tiny mint leaves and more. The champagne, wine, teas, coffees, sodas and water flows all night along with coffee one may mix with hot chocolate. There are gluten free options.