Normand Latourelle likes the word “impossible.”
That’s what people said when his team created an acrobats-only show called Cirque du Soleil. And it’s what he heard, again, when he designed “Cavalia,” a show starring acrobats, musicians, dancers and dozens of horses.
“Impossible just means no one has ever done it before,” Latourelle said. “When someone tells me something is impossible, that’s when I get excited.”
To first explain “Cavalia,” it does sound like an unachievable feat.
More than 50 horses and 40 artists perform an artistic retelling of the history of humans and horses. It includes artful video projections, music performed live, one of the biggest tents ever created and, to the relief of animal advocates, absolutely no violence.
“I only like to present beauty,” said Latourelle, who has a heavy French Canadian accent. “And when you are working with animals, things are not always good, you see a lot of darkness going on, and I don’t like that.”
Latourelle said he created the show’s trademark White Big Top tent to be 160 feet wide so that horses could gallop at full speed and, occasionally throughout the show, run completely free. He’s fired trainers for being rough with animals, and he’s very careful never to force a horse to do anything.
“We had one horse who was what some people would call a problem horse,” he explained. “But he wasn’t really a problem, he just didn’t like to cooperate. We noticed that when he ate carrots and apples, he ate it in a funny way, with his tongue sticking out. I said, ‘This is what this horse does,’ and every night, we gave him apples and carrots to eat during the show and the audience loved it.”
That horse has since retired. And because Latourelle constantly tweaks the show to match the horses’ temperament or the acrobats’ ability, there will be no apple-eating horses when “Cavalia” returns to San Diego.
Actually, because of all the changes made over the years, this “Cavalia” show will hardly resemble the one that was here in 2004.
Latourelle is such a hands-on artistic director that he’s never missed an opening in the show’s nearly 10-year existence, whether it premiered in the Netherlands, Las Vegas or Quebec, his homeland.
“It’s important to me to be at every opening,” he said. “And we had such a great experience last time we were in San Diego that I wanted to make sure we came back before we end the show.”
It turns out, this will be the last time “Cavalia” will ever be in San Diego. Latourelle recently released his new project, “Odysseo,” which also uses horses and acrobats, and that’s been his most recent focus.
When: Opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Continues 8 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16; 8 and 3 p.m. Nov. 17; 8 p.m. Nov. 20 and 21; 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 23; 3 and 8 p.m. Nov. 24; and 2 p.m. Nov. 25.
Where: White Big Top next to Petco Park, 1020 Imperial Ave., East Village
Tickets: $39.50 to $229.50
Discover more San Diego arts & culture events in November
Read Nina Garin's full story and more on utsandiego.com