Why whisper when you can dance with horses?
October 24, 2008
Horses playing unicorns in Ridley’s Scott’s "Legend," or war steeds for Liv Tyler and Ian McKellen in "Lord of The Rings" are beautiful, majestic creatures.
Ballet instructor Giselle Loveland believes the way they move is so beautiful it can only be compared to dance.
That has inspired Loveland to open a new dance school of sorts in Heber. She not only teaches traditional ballet, as she had for years in Logan, but will also teach a new form of art called "Pas de Cheval" dancing with horses.
"They move in such grace and beauty we can only hope to achieve as dancers," she said.
Loveland is a fan of dressage, which is sometimes called "horse ballet." When she pleasure rides with her horse on a dressage saddle she’s amazed by how the movements of the rider and the horse resemble classical ballet.
"It’s the most challenging discipline I’ve discovered besides ballet," she said.
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She’s also a fan of "fairy tale" horses that move with strength and grace with long silky manes and tails. These combined interests led her to begin dancing with her horse and the large black stallion danced back.
"The amazing thing is I didn’t train him to do it. He does it because of the connection, the spiritual meditation, and the process I’ve gone through to achieve that connection and make it a kind of play and theatrics," she explained.
In order to picture Loveland’s dancing with horses, she refers people to "Cavalia," a show from one of the founders of Cirque Du Soleil, which combines acrobatics, dancing and aerial tricks with fine horsemanship in Cirque Du Soleil-style.
Loveland’s school, Chevalia Ballet and Equine Performing Arts Company, hopes to duplicate that combination of horsemanship and fine art in this area.
She wants to create shows in which a dance stage is wrapped around an arena with her dance students performing on the periphery, while her equine dancers perform with the horses in the center. She envisions full-blown theatrics with lighting, music, costumes and choreography that seamlessly unite the similar, but different, styles of dance.
Part of Loveland’s passion for this idea is the excitement she sees in the horses’ eyes. When she watches dressage, it’s beautiful, but she said she can tell the horses are only doing it because they’ve been trained to, not because they want to.
Dancing with horses requires a connection with the animal. She refers to it as a "new genre" of riding.
"When I do my work, I feed off their energy and we become one, and there’s beauty and grace I can’t even speak of," she said.
She can teach a hunter-jumper rider and her horse to do it, but it requires becoming more elegant and refined in the saddle, she said.
"It’s refining the disciplines of riding to make it more of an art form," Loveland explained. "It’s not exhibition performing but true artistic performing."
Loveland chose Heber because she felt there was a need in the Park City area for more advanced ballet instruction and she knew Wasatch and Summit counties had large numbers of horse enthusiasts. She also believes her equine dance performances will appeal to the sophisticated tourists that come to Park City.
A month into it, Loveland said she’s a little frustrated with the difficulty people in Heber are having sharing her vision.
"It’s an interesting concept to tell the horse world about it because the horse world is not artistic at all. But when you talk to a dancer and tell them about it, they get all excited about it. It’s every girl’s dream is to ride and dance with a horse," she said.
One day while sitting in the Wasatch County Event Center watching people practicing roping and barrel riding, a girl came through riding bareback with the kind of uninhibited love for her horse Loveland is looking for.
"It’s for the free-spirited person who loves their horse and wants to share their love with other people. There’s not a venue out there to do that," she said.
Loveland believes there are people in this community yearning to do what she’s organizing; she just has to connect with them.
To prove it, Loveland refers to a student of hers named Bria Felt in Spanish Fork who feels that this project is a "calling" of sorts. Felt’s family is finding the drive to Heber too difficult, but Felt said she feels strongly it’s something she’s "supposed to do."
In Logan, she found her most successful dance programs to be no larger than 100 students. Her current plan is to create a dance company with about that many and then hold try-outs for a 30-person "Pas de Cheval" company that would function as a non-profit.
Her goal is to be ready for a major performance by next fall.
Another reason for moving to Heber, is that Loveland is also working on a related experiential business called Equinessence that involves therapy horses for people.
As animals that are preyed upon in the wild, horses have developed an acute sense of awareness. When people approach them, the animals sense what’s going on inside the person emotionally at the primal level.
Because of this, horses have been used in Europe in therapies that help people identify the buried emotions within them and become masters of their feelings.
Loveland believes she can market this therapy to the business travelers to Park City, both as a fun diversion and as a corporate leadership and team-building workshop.
Jeff Hawkes co-owns a horse with Loveland and is amazed by the "Pas de Cheval."
"I’m relatively new to the horse world, only been in it year and a half, but it’s incredible … she gets out in the arena with these 2,500 lbs. horses and she moves, and they move with her and they respond to her emotions," he said.
Hawkes said the balance and agility of the horses is amazing to watch and the dance is "awe inspiring and a beautiful thing to behold."
Chevalia Ballet and Equine Performing Arts Co.
1516 Red Filly Rd (3050 East)