- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

How the late Ed Sullivan would have loved Cavalia. It was just the sort of family shtick he would put on right before the Dave Clark Five for a “rilly big show.” Who doesn’t like horses that prance and dance, chase and race, roll over and stand up on their hind legs? They even preen for the crowd, taking their bows like Baryshnikov.

The good news is, the show is dazzling. The bad news is, you have to wait until the second half for most of the dazzle — high-wire trapeze artists, bungee jumpers, gravity-defying tumbling acrobats, a nod to Annie Oakley and her Western trick-riding and snow-white Lusitano stallions with their platinum locks that are My Little Ponies come alive.

Continuing through Nov. 15, the show, under a 100-foot high big white tent in Pentagon City is part circus, part theater, set against a 210-foot-wide curved screen with special effects (fake snow, falling leaves, a curtain of water) and mystical music. It’s an all-male revue with 47 horses, half of which are stallions — ranging in color from platinum to soft mocha — and the others are geldings, neutered males.

Appaloosas and Paint Horses allow the humans to ride them bareback, jump them over barriers, stand on their backs and ride at incredibly high speed and generally show what trained equines are made of.

Created by Normand Latourelle from Montreal, (whose credits include Cirque du Soleil), the show features the magical performance of Frederic Pignon, a 37-year-old Frenchman who bills himself as a “horse listener.” Indeed, his segment was the highlight of the show. His uncanny ability to communicate with the horses is spellbinding.

It’s too bad Mr. Pignon’s poignant interaction with his animals comes so late in the show, which has been playing across the United States and Canada for the past two years. Mr. Pignon’s wife, world-class rider Magali Delgado, is fearless and stunning as she shows exactly why women and horses have always had a special bond.

The costumes are colorful, the energy boundless. In the end, though this New Age fairy tale is not for children. It requires a long attention span and commands a hefty price: $79 for adults and $49 to $59 for children under 12. A special package that includes a buffet (shrimp and sushi), wine and beer, free parking and an apres-show tour of the stables goes for $169 for adults and $99 for children under 12.

By the finale, it becomes pretty clear that horses are smarter than we think — and even are divalike in their astounding ability to soak up the applause.

But still, they are one-trick ponies. They can prance on cue, but even that gets a little old after two hours.

Mr. Ed, call your agent.

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