Bartabas: Horseman, performer, artist, madman

Meet the French impresario who is producing the world’s edgiest equestrian theater.

My first encounter with Bartabas’ work came when reader Elizabeth Haffner sent me a link to this strange sequence from the French avant garde film Mazeppa, which won Technical Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993. It features a horse and rider cantering across a plaza in extreme collection, then retracing their steps–backwards.

The sequence is obviously edited, but the horsemanship still fascinated me. I looked into who the rider was and he turned out to be the film’s producer, Bartabas, who is better known as a pioneer of equestrian performance art.

Bartabas was born Clément Marty in 1957. He loved horses, music and dance from an early age and, at 18, rechristened himself Bartabas the Furious and formed a traveling circus troupe that included a menagerie of friends, horses, dogs, falcons and rats. His company, which became Theatre Equestre Zingaro, gained notoriety over the years and eventually took up residence at the Fort d’Aubervilliers, in a wooden big top designed by acclaimed French architect Patrick Bouchain.

While equestrian theater is no longer a novelty act, having been made popular in recent years by shows like Cavalia, Bartabas continuously pushes the boundaries of his audience’s comfort zone, often tackling dark subjects and veering into the abstract.

His shows have varied dramatically over the years, ranging from zen-like…

…to overwrought and comical…

…to darkly captivating.

Here, Bartabas offers an explanation of his work:

In addition to choreographing shows and producing movies, in 2003 Bartabas founded the Académie Equestre de Versailles, a riding school and equestrian ballet corps that performs at the Palace of Versailles.

Learn more about Bartabas and his work as well as show information and tour dates here.

Go Riding.




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