If you have been to any of the Cirque du Soleil shows then you will be familiar with the set up of Les Nouveaux Cavaliers Saka show. This makes sense, as the creator of Saka, Gilles Ste-Croix, was involved with the Cirque du Soleil. A clown comes out in the beginning with a dark brown Shetland Pony (with a crazy mane!) and they warm up the crowd for the show to come.
Like Cirque du Soleil this clown reappears many times during the 90 minute (no intermission) performance and does some crazy things including trying to get a saddle on an unwilling horse and attempting to paint the portrait of a woman all dressed in white (you can imagine where that went, can't you?). The clown is basically just a filler so it doesn't seem like there is any time between the real stars of the show – the horses and their riders.
Saka involves roughly 20 different horses from different countries (France, Canada, United States, etc.) around the world. They are of different breeds (Arabian, Quarter Horses, Andalusia, Lusitano, Percherons, etc.), sizes and colours (gray, all different shades of brown, and white). Each horse has his or her own skill or specialty. The bigger horses, and there are some massive ones, do the 'heavier' work of supporting the jugglers or several people on their backs while the smaller, faster horses perform the agility or speed tricks.
Everyone of your senses will be stimulated during 'Saka' as your ears will be enthralled by the sound of the horses running, your eyes by the skill, power and beauty and your sense of smell by…well, the show does involve horses. As the show happens under a big tent the performance area is circular and not that large making some of the acts even more impressive that these large animals can do such things in such a tight area. It is great for the crowd as you are right on top of them. I sat in the front row and was occasionally sprayed with the dirt from the ground as the horses ran by! Being so close you really get a sense of the speed and these magnificent animals' power.
The human portion of the show involves around a dozen performers who are able to do a variety of skills such as contortion, trapeze, acrobatics, juggling, and, of course, are all good riders. It is amazing how varied they have to be to take part in this show!
The different acts involve many of the types of skills and tricks that you might have seen centuries ago performed by the Cossacks of Hungary. Standing astride two horses, juggling on the back of a galloping horse, jumping on top of them while they are trotting, and jumping on and off while they are running are just some of the fabulous things you will see. There are also trapeze numbers, a number where the horses perform in a type of carousel formation, flaming hoops, typical dressage, and Cossack-type performances.
My favourite moments were when the horses did not have any riders on them. At one point 6 of the brown Andalusians roamed around the ring while a female performed on the trapeze over them. They acted like normal horses rolling in the dirt and playing with each other. A truly special moment. Performance-wise the two highlights were when these same six Andalusians (without riders) performed some dressage skills and choreography while their handler remained in the middle of the ring. The movements they performed were quick, precise and highly choreographed. It was truly impressive! The second was an act towards the end that gives the show its name. The Saka riders performed tricks on their galloping horses while they were going at speeds of around 50 km/h. Jumping on and over, using the horse like a pommel horse in gymnastics and going underneath the horse while it is galloping are all things that have to be seen to be believed.
An extra treat was that to enter into the tent you had to pass through what is in essence the horses' stable. You are able to get an up close look at (without touching) and take pictures of the stars of the show.
Saka is playing in Bromont (exit 78 off autoroute 10) until September 1st. Take the whole family and make a day of it!