Darren Charles: Profile of an Odysseo Choreographer

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to run away and join the circus? We definitely did when Odysseo‘s choreographer Darren Charles invited us out to spend an afternoon under the big top. We got to take an exciting behind-the-scenes look and meet the horses, cast and crew involved in one of the most exciting productions on tour right now.

Darren is warm and welcoming as we join him in on the grounds where the horses are being taken through their daily stretching session. As choreographer, he’s not only responsible for the creative direction of some 50 artists but also the 70 horses who help bring to life what he would describe as more of an extravaganza than a circus. Each performance is a totally new experience with an overwhelming amount of moving parts to be considered. While no two shows you see will ever be the exact same, the one common goal of each show is perfection.

The white Odysseo tent is the biggest of its kind in the world right now and was specifically designed to stand without any additional beams in the middle, allowing for more space to perform. The nearly two-hour spectacle is a remarkable presentation of acrobatics, dance and equestrian riding set against an elaborate backdrop that includes a moving forest, grandiose carousel and a screen with visually stunning imagery. 

tent

You wonder how someone would ever train for a career like this, but Darren seems to have all the right credentials. As a dancer, director and choreographer, he’s a triple threat in his industry. From an early age he began riding horses and his natural athleticism had him pursuing not only rugby and football but also ballet, African and contemporary dance. Beyond his days on the football field, Darren has been involved in grand theater productions based out of London, UK and has worked as a back up dancer for the Spice Girls and Take That. 

While working for Odysseo may seem like a glamorous job from the audience’s seats, this line of work is not for the faint of heart. The days usually start at 9am and can go later than midnight, which translates to 16-hour days, six a week. As Darren explained, what comes out of this environment is a tight-knit village of horses, cast and crew who each do their part to make sure the show is an immense success. 

One of the most interesting aspects of Odysseo is the fact that all the horses used are stallions, known for being better performers but also being much more headstrong than mares. While working with horses brings an exciting element to the show, it involves way more work as well, including long periods of training and daily check-ins to make sure each is up to perform. We learned there is a real psychology behind dealing with equines and apparently they are so in tune with the crew that a rider having an off day can also affect the horse.

Odysseo brings its new sets of challenges every day but Darren considers rewards. Worth every effort. He’s working with beautiful animals and talented people every day to help the show continually evolve both creatively and technically. He loves nothing more than having performers come to him with exciting new stunts and moves to incorporate and his favourite part of the show is during the dramatic segment when a stampede of horses charges over the hill into the arena. The goosebumps you get in that very moment is what makes it all worthwhile to him. 

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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