Perhaps I should have mentioned to Normand Latourelle that I’m afraid of heights. Often, I get nervous just by thinking about it. But after I devoured a mint-chocolate he offered me when I met him in his suite at the top floor of Hilton Universal City, I relaxed.
I thought about confessing my fear of heights to Latourelle. I didn’t need to, however, as soon as our chat began. Latourelle’s a smooth, imperturbable sound and looking man. He managed to make me feel right at home, and that’s what Cavalia’s “Odysseo” comes down to.
“It will be two and a half hours of pure joy,” he said. “You don’t get that a lot in your life. It’s as simple as that. I want to bring happiness. I want people to walk away saying, 'Wow, that was beautiful. I don’t need anything more.’…The show is so beautiful, so romantic and so fun. You laugh. You cry. You go through so many emotions. It’s a dream that’s not painful; it’s a pleasure dream.”
Latourelle, one of the original founders of Cirque du Soleil, created Cavalia in the early 2000s. His latest show, “Odysseo,” premiered in the fall of 2011, and now the greater Los Angeles area carries an opportunity to witness the piece in Burbank under the White Big Top – close to Interstate 5 South.
It involves the use of horses – and quite beautiful ones I’ll add. “Odysseo” horses can do an average of three tricks each. Commonly, a trained horse can exercise just one. Latourelle complimented the equestrian director for the surprise element that the horses possess. They place great priority on that, he pointed out.
“Odysseo,” which is twice as big as Cavalia’s first piece, is an entirely new production, one that Latourelle isn’t afraid to classify as a masterpiece.
“It's so completely different. Such an amazing show,” he said when comparing it to “Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Human and Horse.” “Not just from me, but based on all the reviews from the last year and a half, I can say that ‘Odysseo’ is the best show in the world. Nothing less.”
But Latourelle, who’s quite the charmer, added that if he’d describe “Odysseo” in one word, it’d be “heaven.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“That's the feeling you get when you leave; that you were just in heaven,” he replied without hesitation. Later in our conversation, Latourelle said that the show’s goal is to bring peace to the audience.
Cavalia could be called a diverse entity, from top to bottom, because of its international cast. Latourelle even talked about possible plans to showcase Cavalia’s spectacles in a tour throughout Latin America, particularly Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile.
During shows, the Canada-born man never finds himself backstage. Rather, he squeezes his way into the big crowds where there might be space, or he stays on the sides near the audience.
“I’m always looking at the crowd. My favorite part is at the end when I see everyone stand up for the ovation. It’s always gratifying. It’s hard work, but at least everyone leaves happy,” he said.
Quite the talented and artistic individual, Latourelle truly doesn’t know what he’ll do next.
“I don't know. For me, creation comes from small ideas at a time. I don’t see the big picture until I have it,” he said. “I always come up with small ideas, and one day they will all come together and form that next big picture. For now, I just have small ideas here and there. The next show may not have horses. It could. The important thing is to have something new every time.”
Whether he can beat “Odysseo” or not remains to be seen. According to Latourelle, one thing is certain: “Odysseo” is another world that’s bigger, more colorful, more joyful and more fantastic. It's like being in paradise.
That’s the perfect cure for a fear of heights.
Cavalia's "Odysseo" runs through Sunday, March 24. For more information or to purchase tickets to performances in Burbank, click here.