Odysseo created an up-close and personal experience for adventurous children who happened to come from Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired Tuesday morning in the enormous Big Top at AT&T Park in San Francisco, drawing from the thrilling theater experience with 65 horses, 45 riders and acrobats and a massive digital screen with wilderness projections and a real water lake flowing inside the tent. A small group of about five girls and three boys got hands-on interaction with the amazing riders and horses, on site, including the stables and the VIP tent. The whole group posed together after, horses and all. Brian Aylesworth in his purple shirt called out, ‘Say neigh!’. Later over lunch in the VIP tent he said the horses feel smooth, they work out and that they are beautiful with their hair. He seemed amused when asked about the horses’ tongues when they licked his hand like a friendly dog, probably for the salt. He gave a pinto a couple of carrot treats. Somewhere in there it’s a message about bonding and trust and synergy.
Related: Odysseo with local Brennan Figari a transportive, enchanting thrill
Spencer Elizabeth Rose of northern California, Roman rider
The visitors met northern California native Spencer Elizabeth Rose, a Roman rider who invited the visitors to sit with her in the center of the riding arena while the dapple grays were ridden around the perimeter. She brought out her trick riding saddle, which has no padding as it’s not meant sit on. A brass handle sticks straight up from the front or pommel. The cantle or back has two hand holds built into the stiff leather, one hold on either side. If you have seen the show you know she spends little time seated to say the least. See the photos in the slideshow or this video.
Rose also brought out the bridles and let the visitors see how the bits and reins feel and how they work. She noted how the show has riders from all over the world and they bring their own equipment. She presented a beautiful black leather Cossack trick riding saddle, which felt softer as it had padding. She mentioned she just adopted two of her horses from the show. They live at her home two hours south of San Francisco.
Claire Beer, Roman and trick rider; Camile or Kamila Ganclarska, groom
The experience involved meeting the riders and hearing what it feels like to perform, encountering first-hand the size and feel of the horses, their grooming tools, the unique saddles and bridles, the feed. Claire Beer of Michigan, seen in the video with her palomino Django, talked about the trust it takes to throw herself off while galloping and then dangle from her ankle at full speed. She also said Roman riding, standing on the backs of a pair moving parallel, feels exactly like using an elliptical trainer where the knees come up high. See the video and also how she describes the beats of the gaits: Gaits video.
Groom to six horses Camile Ganclarska with her flowing blond hair introduced the girls to Bud. The girls held and used each of the grooming tools and even tried their hands at braiding his mane. The girls got to touch his soft muzzle and coat, his mane and tail and even his hooves along with the corresponding grooming tool. Ganclarska talked about her day, how she says hello to each of her six horses when she arrives and sees if they have eaten. She brushes and shampoos them and braids their manes and tacks them up, putting on the right saddle and bridle before bringing each horse to the right spot while the artist waits back stage.
Sound and rhythm in the VIP tent with Sylla and Bangoura
The stunningly beautiful horses, each dapple gray with flowing manes, circled the children in a special riding arena so the group could listen for the sound and rhythm of the horses’ gaits. Ultimately the group moved into the VIP tent to find the African drummers with bongo-like instruments and wearing vibrant loose pants, inviting the children in to create their own sound and rhythm with the drummers, who double as gymnasts. Everybody does more than one thing at Odysseo, including each of the horses, each of which perform in four different acts and will do six out of seven shows a week. The children each received four tickets to the show at the end of the visit, before being treated to a beautiful buffet lunch in the VIP tent called Rendevous. Drummer/gymnasts names include the following: Mohamed Sylla, Younoussa Sylla, Alseny Sylla, Alseny Bangoura, Idrissa Bangoura, Balla Moussa Bangoura. Here’s the video of a few of the show’s drummers including Younoussa Sylla and Alseny Bangoura; and Vista guests playing together Monday: Drumming.
This VIP treatment included being elbow to elbow with members of the local press, including camera operators and photographers from KTVU and the San Francisco Chronicle. Brian Aylesworth took to the journalist experience. Steve from the Chronicle gave him the notes from the interview torn out of a reporter’s notebook, which is about four inches across so it fits into a pocket. Aylesworth started to interview his friends and family at his VIP lunch table, beseeching them to ‘work with me, please’.
Athena Scopelita came with some natural aptitude herself, having had ridin lessons for a year and a half in Danville. She took western lessons from her teacher Molly and started barrel racing. She rode a Quarterhorse named Tux near Blackhawk and she rode the open range in Hawaii. Monday she came to Odysseo with her Grandma who petted Django, the palomino, while Athena was busy. Athena Scopelita chatted with the media outside the VIP tent as the sun retreated and the drizzle started again after two days and nights of rain. She dealt with it all matter of factly, even when taken aside for an on-camera interview.
Odysseo runs to January 17 in San Francisco then the village goes to Orange County with it’s tent the size of a football field and a quarter mile around. Creator Normand Latourelle, one of the creators of Cirque du Soleil, founded Cavalia and Odysseo is the second production, starting in 2011. He came to San Francisco five years ago with the original show and it was half the size of Odysseo.
Tickets range from $29.50 to $264.50 plus taxes and fees. There are packages and discounts. The VIP buffet is fantastic and lavish. Odysseo shows happen Tuesday through Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm. There are weekday matinees throughout the holidays. The Odysseo village is in China Basin, at AT&T Park in the parking lot. Third Street at Channel Street.
It’s accessible by walking, biking or taking a cab along the Embarcadero, even driving. The lot charges for parking but there is some street parking in the neighborhood. It’s an easy bike ride from Embarcadero BART and one can ride a shortcut along Main Street or Third Street rather than traversing the long but scenic route along The Embarcadero. There’s a collection of permanent food trucks with a Peet’s Coffee & Tea next to the parking lot.
For more information: Odysseo or Odysseo Facebook, Vista