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Bellagio raises the roof on Cheval big top

Nov 19, 2002 6:05 AM

   Bellagio opens the doors and raises the roof of the world’s largest big top tent on Nov. 22 when it debuts a return performance of Cheval, which will play Friday through Jan. 5.

   For the second consecutive year, an international cast and 30 extraordinary horses converge on Las Vegas to perform under the hand-painted big top.

   Last Friday crews raised the huge, hand-painted tent as helicopters circled overhead and onlookers watched in amazement.

   Bellagio’s architectural wonder can seat 1,500 spectators around a circus-style ring 46 feet in size, which is centered under the 141-foot high big top tent.

   The Cheval big top is set up in the parking lot south of Bellagio at Harmon and Las Vegas Blvd.

   Created and directed by Gilles Ste-Croix, the former director of creation for Cirque du Soleil, Cheval is a celebration of equestrian and human potential.

   The 90-minute performances feature multiple acts, including equestrian vaulting, Garotcha, High School Dressage, The Carousel, Freestyle Dressage and Bohemio, a comedic horse who cleverly lets his trainer know who is truly in charge.

   Breeds include spirited Arabians, Barbs, Andulusians, Friesians and various Spanish horses. Belgians, Percherons, Haflingers and Canadians carry fearless, agile athletes on their powerful hindquarters, defying the laws of gravity while an American miniature horse, “Chabo,” makes up in spirit what he lacks in size.

   “Cheval is a show for all ages, a place where families can bring children and grandparents,’’ said Ste-Croix. “It is a holiday experience that reflects the beauty of the season.

   “During the past year we have added elements to the Cheval production that create a truly magical event,” Ste-Croix continued. “The experience the spectators feel when they see Cheval is one of amazement and excitement. It is a delight to be seen by all.”

   Presented by Bellagio, the Cheval experience begins before the show as the audience walks through a stable tent prior to entering the 1,500-seat big top. The exterior of the round, multi-peaked tent is hand-painted to replicate a castle in the Loire Valley of France.

   Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, the Admission Network and at all MGM Mirage box offices. Adult prices run $49-$59, with senior citizen and children’s discounts available.