The French virtuoso horse-rider Bartabas and his Zingaro horse-an-humans theatre have mesmerized audiences for two decades. DE I has talked to the founder of the Equestrian Performance Academy after watching the maestro’s new show Battuta bring the house down – yet again – in Avignon. Below is what Bartabas had to say to our questions and what he, well, had to say.
Bartabas: Shamanism, the most ancient of religions, is what I identify with the most. I actually think that shamanism is quite relevant today. Shamans teach to live with the Nature as an equal, not suppress it. Man is an important part of the Nature but man is not stronger than plants of animals. It Is more important to be at peace with the Nature that to confront it. Man is the only creature that hunts for pleasure rather than out of necessity.
DE I: Do horses have an artistic instinct?
BARTABAS: man differs from animal in that he has a concept of life and death. Animals have a death instinct but they do not rationalize death while they are alive. Man has invented religion and art based on his awareness of death and uses them in his search for an answer to that ever-haunting question – what will happen next?
DE I: Do you always know what you are doing?
BARTABAS: On the contrary, I would say that I work with horses at the level of instinct. It’s a combination of intellect and instinct. I lend my reason to the horses and they let me borrow their instinct. It takes a special effort to learn how to listen to one’s instinct. One should not to be afraid of self-expression, if even it occurs in a somewhat aggressive way… An artist is no a thinker, an artist must react, not realize.
DE I: What would change in the world and in society in general if you had the chance?
BARTABAS: I would get rid of all the machines and replace them with horses.
DE I: Your shows are cathartic and they change people. Is that on purpose?
BARTABAS: Absolutely. To me, a show is an opportunity to lead the spectator exactly where you want him to be. The audiences are already familiar with the story. They come to the theatre to watch HOW we tell it, not WHAT we tell. For those purposes, the theatre is similar to religion. It brings people together so they can partake in an activity that resembles a religious rite.
Working with horses teaches you a great deal. One won’t accomplish much working with a horse by relying on a negative message. The method will work for an artist, a painter but not with the animals. One always must be constructive and positive, otherwise you’re a doomed.
Twenty years ago I had no idea what would become of Zingaro. Just like I don’t know today what is in store for me tomorrow. I will learn that from my horses. I will leave the stage the day when horses no longer want to work with me.
DE I: Sounds like a new religion.
BARTABAS: I prefer to compare myself to a musician. A Horse is a divine animal, a very sophisticated instrument that responds me, works with me, brings me something.
Third part opinion: “When Bartabas is on horseback he elevates the horse to a level of trust that anything becomes possible. He is the first rider ever to make a horse trot on the spot in the middle of a turn”.
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST ¹-1. BARTABAS. THE HORSES ARE HIS VIOLIN AND THE HORSEWHIP IS HIS BOW