THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Byline: DEBORAH VOORHEES Credit: Staff Writer
Everything in Cheval is about the precise collaboration between human and equine athletes.
Cheval isn't a typical horse show. Artistic director GillesSte-Croix gives us humans and horses no less amazing than the performers in now-famous Cirque du Soleil, which he helped start. In an intimate tent with a 46-foot ring, acrobats spin, somersault, dance and do handstands and aerial splits on the backs of theseequine beauties.
Awe intensifies as speeds quicken from trots to canters to gallops.
Among the most extreme performers are the Cossack riders. These daredevils do somersaults atop their mounts and crawl beneath theirbellies - all at a gallop.
At one point an acrobat runs alongside a galloping horse and, without help from a springboard leaps onto the horse's back.Amazingly, he lands on his feet.
One "liberty" act (without a rider or restraints) is worth noting.An Arabian stallion named Dansk gives a commendable performance asa wild, rebel colt. This bridleless horse dances only for himself.He thrashes his mane and paws at the ground, refusing the commandsof his trainer.
In great defiance, he rears over his trainer, his teeth bared andhis hooves in striking position. Unfazed, the trainer continues toask the horse to submit. Gradually and gracefully, the stallionbegins to dance to please the man. He rears and pivots on his hindlegs and finally kneels before him.
The show's first half is the most impressive. The action movessmoothly often without clear stops and starts.
At Wednesday's preview, things came apart a bit in the second half.The show loses some of its edge as the acts became more segmentedand more like traditional circus-horse routines, including theinevitable juggling on horseback.
The performers also begin to rely on a cheesy circus gimmick - theone where broad arm gestures tell the audience that somethingastounding has just happened - ta-da. The cues are hardly necessarywhen acrobats are doing flips on the backs of cantering horses.
The costumes designed by Francois Barbeau help elevate all ofCheval. He mercifully spares viewers from the gaudy and predictablesequined bodices and ridiculous feathered hats. Instead, Mr.Barbeau opts for a combination of old-world elegance and vagabondgypsy attire - often in muted colors. Guy Simard's lighting -mostly violets and blues - adds to the elegance.
Cheval continues Tuesdays-Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8p.m., Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m. through Oct. 27 in the tent at ValleyView Center, Preston Road and LBJ Freeway. Tickets $39 to $52; discounts for students, seniors and children. Call Ticketmaster at214-373-8000 or metro 972-647-5700, or go to http://www.chevaltheatre.com/.
Launch Text Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Byline: DEBORAH VOORHEES Credit: Staff
Acrobatics was just another circus act until Gilles Ste-Croix and ahandful of street performers revolutionized it in what became theinternational phenomenon of Cirque du Soleil.
Twenty years later Mr. Ste-Croix is tackling another circusmainstay: the horse act. He wants to transform the union of humansand horses into something extraordinary in its own right - and notsimply Cirque du Soleil on horseback.
It took two years to put together his latest creation, ChevalThéâtre, which premiered in Montreal in May 2001. It's now on athree-year tour that comes to Valley View Center startingThursday.
"I wanted to bring the circus back to its origins - a single ringwith horses, " says Mr. Ste-Croix, and then take it to a new level, with cutting-edge choreography, costumes, music and effects.
Like Cirque du Soleil, the show called Cheval, which means horse inFrench, will be performed in a tent. It has been elaboratelypainted to look like a castle, and it has 1,500 seats that surroundthe stage. "I prefer a tent because I have more control of thespace, " says Mr. Ste-Croix.
When he decided to create a horse show, one of his first obstacleswas finding performers. "There aren't that many people who dotricks with horses anymore. It's a dying art, " he says.
Most performers came from Europe, where there are more horse acts.Still, Mr. Ste-Croix found the pool of horse performers so smallthat he had to hire some acrobats without riding experience.
Caroline Macé, for example, has to do tricks on horses that sheonce did on stationary objects. "I had to learn to do acrobatics tothe horse's rhythm, " says Ms. Macé. "It takes total concentration.The horse adds the element of the unknown."
That unknown element drives Cheval in many ways. Few people are asfamiliar with horses today as when they were a chief means oftransporation - they seem like majestic, mysterious creatures.
"I want the audience to see the relationship that exists betweenthe performer and the horse, " says Mr. Ste-Croix. "It's built ontrust.
"When you see the Cossack rider go under the belly of the horse ata gallop, you understand that there is a way of living where youhave to be one with the horse, " he says.
And yet Mr. Ste-Croix's goal is to bring something new to thisancient relationship - something new to the often antiquated bigtop. "I had to push the performers away from the traditional horseact and push them into a new light, " he says.
Besides choreography, the show needed a sound - Cirque du Soleil, of course, is almost as famous for its ethereal world beat soundsas its daredevil feats. Bernard Poirier composed two hours oforiginal music for Cheval.
"I wanted the music to be a blend of old Europe and jazz and rock, "says Mr. Ste-Croix. "Bernard had to consider what rhythm fit awalk, trot, canter. He had to make the music fit the feeling of theperformance."
Cheval is forever evolving. "It's changed so much since we firstopened, and it will continue to do so."
Right now, Mr. Ste-Croix is putting together five paint horses toperform in a fire act. The first hurdle: to train them not to befrightened of a natural enemy - fire.
DETAILS: Opens Thursday at 8 p.m. and continues each Tuesdaythrough Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1and 5 p.m. through Oct. 27 at Valley View Center, Preston Road andLBJ. $39 to $52; discounts for students, seniors and children.
Ticketmaster, 214-373-8000, metro 972-647-5700 orhttp://www.ticketmaster.com/.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Byline: DEBORAH VOORHEES Credit: Staff WriterSection:
The Texas Storytelling Festival in Denton steps back to the daysof string games, comic books and marbles. The days when stayinginside was a punishment, and no one had dreamed of video games, after-school cartoons or digital anything. Storytelling evengoes back to times when there was little else to do around thecave.
The festival's theme this year is "Storytelling: Southern-fried, Texas-sized, with a Yankee on the side." The name reflects thefestival's headliners: Dallas' Elizabeth Ellis, a veteran of thegranddaddy of all storytelling festivals, the National StorytellingFestival in Jonesboro, Tenn.; North Carolina's David Holt, a GrammyAward-winning folklorist and musician; and New Hampshire's WillyClaflin, who weaves tales with his music.
The headliners will join 87 others to explore topics ranging fromwar to sports, American Indians to Western pioneers, ghosts tospirituality, Southern belles to heroes, Brer Rabbit to the wilycoyote.
Some storytellers quietly spin yarns while propped on a stool.Others take up the whole stage with booming vocals and bodymovements. Some tell their tales as modern-day minstrels. But allhave a knack for luring in the audience with little more than aspotlight and a microphone.
Last year's festival resembled a large family reunion. Many peopleknew each other; some folks come back year after year. They milledabout the park's benches, trees, swings and slides. When schoolbuses arrived with kids on field trips, the air was filled withlaughter and little voices.
Daytime shows are easy to get into, but come early for the nightconcerts. They usually sell out. Vendors will be selling CDs, tapesand books from nationally and regionally known storytellers, manyof whom will be at the festival.
This is an event for which you leave the GameBoy at home and whereyou instead gather 'round for one of the world's oldest forms ofentertainment: spoken word. Close your eyes and you might even seethe blackened cave walls and feel the fire's warmth.
DETAILS: Opens Thursday and continues through March 24 at Denton'sCivic Center Park, 321 E. McKinney. General hours Thursday from10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 7 to 10:30 p.m.; March 22 from 8:30 a.m.to 10:30 p.m., March 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., March 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Events priced individually; $165 weekend passincludes everything except workshop with David Holt and the TaleSpinner Party. 940-387-8336. http://www.tejasstorytelling.com/.