Out of all the amazing technical artistry and athleticism on display at Cavalia: Odysseo, one question remains: How the heck do they get the horses to do all that?
The imposing White Big Top tent looming over Assembly Square in Somerville was packed on Wednesday for the opening night of Odysseo, an acrobatic equine extravaganza that combines dancing, singing, riding, jumping and a whole lot of aerial flips.
It all takes place on an impressive 17,500 square foot manmade set, which includes two massive hills in the background in front of a hi-def video screen. The setting changes through all different climates, from luscious green plains to rolling deserts (and judging by the blasting air conditioning, winter could have come at any time).
Each set piece provided a different opportunity for the 47 human performers to strut their stuff. The acrobats zipped around the gravelly floor via handspring and tumbling, rarely taking much of a break. They hurdled over and under balance bars, with a few of them wearing stilts that helped them bounce into the air like bunny rabbits. They created large human structures, though this wasn't a cheerleading competition -- at one point, five guys were hanging off of one dude's arms.
One sequence had a few acrobats hurtling above the stage in large rings hanging from cords, holding themselves up with grace and ridiculous upper body strength. In another, a carousel descended from the ceiling and the acrobats slid up and down the poles as the structure rotated around and around.
But everyone was there for the horses, and they did not disappoint. Sixty-three horses of 11 different breeds took the stage, many times with riders (who were nuts, by the way; they did tricks on the horses I didn't even know existed). They galloped together in delicate lines or interlocking groups. Some of their sequences didn't need to be so long, especially since it seemed like they were just walking in a circle during some sequences (the show is about 2 1/2 hours, with a 30 minute intermission). But at no point were they never majestic to watch.
Cavalia has added more performances to extend the show's run to Sept. 1. Tickets are available starting at $34.50 at www.cavalia.net or by calling 866-999-8111.
Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter @sweetestpete.