The Grandes Écuries – Château de Versailles
I am always pleasantly surprised when someone takes the time to reach out to me and see if there be some way that we can work together in the City of Light. However there are moments when I about fall off my chair by who it is reaching out to me – much like I did when I received a terrific email from the Academy of Equestrian Arts housed in the Grandes Écuries of the Château de Versailles.
The Academy of Equestrian Arts was founded in 2003 by Bartabas, a tour de force of equestrian arts first coming to global attention with his production of Zingaro and the film Mazeppa, respectively. Bartabas established the academy at the Chateau de Versailles based on his interpretation of what King Louis XIV believed created a a true equestrian artist: engaging in other disciplines such as fencing, singing, dancing and music. Whilst he is a man of few words should you cross his path on a visit, he is a man of incredible vision and talent for choreography that transcends the rider/horse experience as an observer.
The current show at the Château de Versailles is La Voie de l’Ecuyer and it is an avant-garde performance of the entire repertoire studied in the academy including the beautiful horses, as well as their riders who have honed their skills in the art of fencing, voice and archery as well. The performance is incredible to watch and there were moments of it that I honestly found to be so beautiful it was very moving to watch. This academy and its performances are not so much about riding the horses as it is the true art of performing with them, horse and rider seamless as one.
The academy is housed in the Grandes Écuries of the Chateau de Versailles originally built in 1679 (and finished in 1683) to house the Sun King’s 600 horses (there are Petites Écuries as well). Now there are around 35 horses from Lusitania, Portugal and Argentina housed here and to say they receive the royal treatment is a bit of an understatement. The academy performs on the weekend in a beautiful 17th century hall that was refinished by French architect Patrick Bouchain. The space seats up to 500 spectators and is lit with serene chandeliers hanging above giving the show a haunting beauty.
To be invited to attend the performance and then be given a private tour of the stables and tack room, learn about the performance hall, enjoy champagne in the Salon Nuño Oliveira – just having the opportunity to learn the incredible history of this special place only 30 minutes from Paris was such a privilege. The behind the scenes team of the Academy of Equestrian Arts is brilliant and ambitious and I am thrilled to be working with them. It is these rare moments of access in Paris that I always try to take a quiet moment to stop and reflect that I am so incredibly blessed to be able to do what I do for a living.