September 1, 2009

Artania: A Russian mystical horse circus

This past weekend, I had a chance to see the Russian circus performance Artania at South Fork Ranch outside of Dallas Texas. I didn’t know what to expect before I got there, but I was pleasantly surprised. The show is a sort of Cirque du Soleil meets traditional Russian horse riding.

The show’s imagery is based upon a legendary Russian kingdom with the same name. The costumes, lighting, and music were all very well done, and matched the mythical kingdom feel. The trampoline and circus wheel acrobatics were excellent, as were two segments of exotic dancing. There were also very entertaining clown segments, and a fancy ring tossing act.

Artania queen

The main attractions though, were those acts that involved the beautiful horses with names like Audi, Gegemon, Napoleon and Ronald.
Towards the beginning of the show, a beautiful queen-like character (shown in the picture) danced with an equally beautiful blonde horse. Other horse-centric acts involved caped men with elaborate horse-like head dresses riding on the backs of two horses each, and a polo-like fur tossing and catching routine.

But by far, the most memorable horse sequence was the grand-finale, where eight or so horses ridden by barbarian warrior types raced around the ring, then split up into groups of two with each rider performing signature tricks like leaning upside down over the side of the swiftly moving horses , doing flips while standing on them, or hoping on and off the horses very quickly.

Probably the most impressive horse trick was when a rider “crawled” around a horse’s mid section, completing a loop about the horse, all while the equine creature was rocketing around the circle.

According to the website and show program, these horse tricks originate from North Ossetia Russia. In 1947, a circus performer Alibek Kantemirov broke off on his own, and together with his sons, created a troupe of horse riders performing special equine tricks that appeared in Soviet cinema. The horse tricks performed and perfected by Alibek and his family later featured in circus acts through the world.

Fast forward to 1994 and Mairbek Kantemirov, grandson of the founder Alibek, has updated the show to become a modern circus that has performed in Europe, Canada, and now the US.

Earlier this year, the Artania troupe came to Texas, first starting in Houston, then making its way to Dallas. However, according to the Royse City Herald Banner, the promoter that was working with with the performers abandoned them after Mr. Kantemirov refused to sell the entire circus act to him. Legal and financial problems ensued, and it seems that Kantemirov Productions was taken advantage of and left high and dry with no money.

Flash forward to now, and the Artania crew has been able to get back into the ring by securing a long-playing run at South Fork Ranch.

The promotional materials for the show were designed and produced by my friend Jonathan Caustrita, creator of  Tiki Coladas from Purple Box Studios. I think he did a great job capturing the mystery and excitement for the South Fork run.

The show runs until Halloween, and I wish the troupe the best!

Filed under: Arts and Entertainment — Brad @ 4:26 pm