x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Qasr Al Hosn Festival: Stallions march into Abu Dhabi for Emirati-style performance

Cavalia, the Canadian-based production that puts horses and humans together for a multi-disciplinary show, has begun preparing its stallions for an Emirati-style performance.

Behind the scenes at the Cavalia stables as show horses train for the Qasr al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi. Shown here are Julian Beaugnon from France and his horse, Junior, in the Liberty Act. Silvia Razgova / The National
Behind the scenes at the Cavalia stables as show horses train for the Qasr al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi. Shown here are Julian Beaugnon from France and his horse, Junior, in the Liberty Act. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // Fifty show horses have arrived in the capital to be part of an equestrian theatrical production that will be the centrepiece of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival this month.

Cavalia, the Canadian-based production that combines horses and human beings for a multi-disciplinary show, has begun preparing its stallions for an Emirati-style performance, which will be held from February 22 to March 1.

Normand Latourelle, who founded Cavalia in 2003, altered the show to highlight the culture of Abu Dhabi.

“The show will be a marriage of the Emirati culture, the history of Qasr Al Hosn and the Cavalia dream culture,” said Mr Latourelle, a co-creator of Cirque du Soleil.

“This won’t be a history lesson, but it will be an inspiration from Abu Dhabi’s history to go into a dream world.”

A 35-metre high big top is being erected near the fort, and will be filled with 2,500 tonnes of sand and earth. The big top will be able to accommodate 1,000 people.

On Sunday, the ad hoc stables set up at the back of the tent were buzzing with the new arrivals. The all-male herd, which includes Pure Spanish, quarters, paints, Australian Stocks, Comtois, Percheron, miniatures, Lusitano, Criollo and Warmbloods, are show regulars. They will be joined by seven Arabian horses for the festival.

The team has been practising a new routine, which will feature local music and costumes, for the past three months but is waiting for the animals to acclimatise to their new surroundings before they begin training here.

Katie Cox trains with 10-year-old Emilio, a Percheron, one of the biggest breeds. She said the horses got here a few days ago and will start practice this week.

“He thinks he is a midget, the way he acts,” said Ms Cox, laughing as her horse got restless during a demonstration and nudged a passerby.

“Each has a personality and is unique and we have to take their temperaments into consideration. Cavalia focuses on the happiness of the horse and they aren’t forced into performing.”

The show has acrobats and horse riders with a projection backdrop explaining the theme.

Eric Paquette, the public-relations director of the show, said they were excited to put up something different from what they have showcased in other countries. More than 4 million people in North America, Europe and Australia have watched the show.

“The artists have been doing this for a very long time,” Mr Paquette said. “And though we evolve along the way, this is the first time we will be incorporating a lot of new elements and truly embracing the Emirati culture. It is very exciting that we will be the ambassador for the culture for a short while.”

To depict the relationship of the emirate with the sea, the artistic directors have added a water scene with the horses.

Ms Cox said all the horses will be in the water.

“Horses are comfortable in water, but this is the first time we will be using water in our show,” she said.

Mr Latourelle said the Arabian horses will be part of a “Liberty Act”, where they will be let free to perform on the 50-metre wide stage. “They will come on stage and play,” he said.

aahmed@thenational.ae

This story was changed on February 3. We reported that 4,000 people have watched the show in North America, Europe and Australia. The correct number is 4 million.