Cavalia’s ODYESSO Elevates the Human Spirit

Cavalia’s ODYESSO Elevates the Human Spirit

Pictured: The “Carosello” segment of ODYESSO. Photo by Dan Harper.

Review: Cavalia’s ODYESSO at Soldier Field

By Alyssa Dyksterhouse

Three years ago, a friend extended an invitation to see Cavalia’s ODYESSO. I knew nothing about the show but took her recommendation to “just see it.” Though I am not one frequently flabbergasted by spectacle, I remain shocked at this show’s lasting influence over me.

I took a friend to Tuesday night’s Chicago opening, who smartly summed it up saying, “There is something for everyone. If you don’t like horses, then there is dancing, acrobatics, singing and amazing technical elements.”

Taking place under a 58,000-square-foot tent boasting a massive stage with a hill rising more than three stories, the world’s largest touring show features 65 horses and 48 humans including riders, dancers, acrobats and stilt walkers. Yes, stilt walkers.

Between the scale and imagination of the design elements and the captivating creativity of the artists and the consummate capacity of the performers, I spent most the show vacillating from unprecedented admiration to wondering how the hell they do that?

In the second number “The Fairies” enter the stage in what is known as “roman riding” straddling between two galloping horses.

However, beyond the showmanship, ODYESSO provides release from day-to-day reality while providing an affirmation of the human—and animal—spirit. Most notably, near the end, in a meaningful moment, the audience is instructed to chant “O Walu Guere Moufan” which translates to “No More War on Earth.”

Another striking scene is “Freedom” where trainer Elise Verdoncq commands 9 horses by showing positive reinforcement. Maybe a lesson from which we can all benefit when interacting with living things.

During my first exposure, I sat in my seat surveying the show for symbolism; yet, this time I let it wash over me surrendering to the experience. Both approaches provide value.

In our current political and social environment, everyone could enjoy a show which provides some escapism while elevating the human experience. You might end up, like my friend, wanting to join the circus.

Offering something to everyone, my recommendation is “Just see it.”

ODYESSO runs through April 23rd. For more information visit

About author

Alyssa Dyksterhouse

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy/Dramatic Criticism, Alyssa Dyksterhouse has over 20 years of professional theater experience. She recently returned from the living in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote about arts and culture for Seattle Weekly and Seattle Gay Scene.

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