Darshan: A Fabulous Equine World

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Agathe Poupeney

Hot to trot Darshan uses shadow to evoke a fabulous equine world

After 25 years of globe-trotting with his Paris-based equestrian performing company, Zingaro, it seems that the French impresario Bartabas (he goes by the one name) is finally tired of running in circles. For once, it's the spectators who will be taking a turn. For his new show, Darshan, running through June 2010, Bartabas has completely transformed the Zingaro arena, hitherto evocative of an Elizabethan theater-in-the-round. Now it is the audience that is at the center, arranged upon a pyramidal seating structure. Encircled by a riding track and massive screens upon which shadows are projected, the structure gently rotates throughout the show, the public in effect becoming captives at the center of an ever turning galaxy of dreamlike, equine imagery.

Gone are the comedic acrobatics of past Zingaro productions. As Bartabas says, Darshan — meaning "vision of the divine" in Sanskrit — is a poetic meditation on "the horse as a vehicle for voyages in every sense of the term: voyages across countries and cultures, seasons and time, but also voyages within ourselves." Music as disparate as Tibetan chants and Mozart's masses plunges viewers into meditative states. Spectators are left to draw their own narrative from the flow of primal shadow images of warriors eating atop their mounts by twilight, processions of angels and demons, a meeting of primitive man and stallion, and a pied piper trailed by a train of rocking horses.

In an era where digitalization has permeated almost all entertainment, Darshan proves that simple, living shadows can marshal spectators' imaginations equally well. "The show is really about you," says Bartabas. "Your interior world, your childhood memories, your fears, your dreams." See zingaro.fr for more.