Quebec theatre producer Normand Latourelle is back with Odysseo, the newest production of his equestrian and performing arts troupe Cavalia.
The latest large-scale circus extravaganza from the Cirque du Soleil veteran features 60 horses and 20 acrobats performing together under the largest touring tent in the world. It opens in Toronto on Tuesday after a successful run in Miami.
Latourelle formed his company after leaving Cirque about a decade ago. "I was very attracted by the aesthetic of the horse," he told CBC News.
"This is the most beautiful animal on earth."
While many of today's circus troupes have stopped incorporating animals — in part due to concerns over how they are treated — Latourelle is proud of his company's work with its equine stars.
"We take the time to train the horse," he said. "We don't hit the horse with the whips. We do use some sticks to give commands for the horse to understand — go backward, go [forward] — but we don't use spurs... The bits we have are soft bits."
Cavalia's care for its horses is noteworthy, as other entertainment productions have drawn criticism for its treatment of animals. A recent, prominent example is the high-profile HBO racetrack drama Luck, which was cancelled early in its run following the deaths of three horses featured on the show.
The dazzling spectacle of Odysseo is thanks to the sheer size of the 27,000 square foot stage, which gives the horses enough space to run, and not because the animals are forced to perform dangerous stunts, Latourelle says. "I said if ever we have to abuse the animal to do a show, I will stop."
Equestrian journalists who have visited the show seemed impressed by the treatment of the horses. Still, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will send an officer to the show to ensure the horses are receiving the proper care.