Exhibition riding on trained horses. In the grand history of equestrian riding in traditional, tented circus there have been two main strands: dressage, where the horses are trained to perform stylised movements (turning circles, stopping, lying down, etcetera on command), and voltige, which is acrobatics performed on horseback.
With the advent of new and contemporary circus, the equestrian arts have been approached from new directions, with French companies like Baro d'Evel Cirk and Théâtre du Centaure using the behaviour and presence of horses as the underpinning of a richer theatrical language – incorporating, particularly, dance.
I had no reason to expect something so unpleasant. Sadler's Wells have certainly kept quiet about the fact that, while The Centaur and the Animal does indeed have four beautiful, resplendent horses trained by an equestrian legend, Bartabas, and a noble butoh master, Ko Murobushi, onstage, it is also wrapped around the Comte de Lautréamont's vile and unremitting Maldoror.
'Equestrian ‘performance’ holds a special interest for me. In my younger days I competed as a sport equestrian vaulter, a little-known discipline that shares more with circus or ice-skating than it does with the usual round of equestrian disciplines in the sporting world. Despite training at the time in theatre and dance, it was in equestrian vaulting that I first experienced the tangible feeling of ensemble and of a certain kinaesthetic sympathy with another performer – in this case the sympathetic bond between equine- and human-kind.'
Former prince of the ring Thomas Wilson reflects on the horse in contemporary circus performance.
Originally made in just five days and performed for four nights to an audience of friends in the tiny stables of Switzerland's Circus Monti, InStallation has since moved into a tent and toured some of Switzerland and France's largest festivals. Following a UK performance at Milton Keynes' IF Festival, one of the creators, Roman Müller, talks to Sideshow about staying faithful to the intimacy and roughness of those first performances.
One memory of InStallation is a chain of enduring images, seen through washes of blue and white light. A Chinese pole swings as a pendulum, casting a crisp shadow.