A multi-range genre

In 1852, while the Cirque d'Hiver was being built, Paris had five permanent establishments with schedules and architecture designed to accommodate horse shows: two circuses (Cirque d’Été and Cirque d’Hiver) and two hippodromes joined the Cirque Olympique theatre created by the Franconi family. The latter was destroyed in 1862 during the work for the creation of the Boulevard du Temple. The Théâtre du Châtelet was originally designed and built by the architect Davioud specifically to accommodate the Cirque Olympique theatre’s equestrian pantomimes and, therefore, with a stage sturdy enough to bear the weight of the horses. However, Hippolyte Holstein, who managed one and subsequently the other establishment, chose to replace horses by extravaganzas. From then on, the equestrian scene began to disappear in France (it lasted until the end of the 19th century in England) and the circus arenas and racetracks alone provided space for horse shows, whether they formed a 15-, 16- or 19-meter circle (Cirque Olympique theatre) or a 96 x 64 meter-wide elongated oval as at the Étoile hippodrome.

Equestrian acts gradually blended into a bill increasingly filled out with varieties in which numbers and entries of acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers and animal trainers offered an eclectic repertoire of physical, animal, classical and comedic prowess alongside riders.

Themselves the original foundation of the circus, equestrian acts gradually blended into a bill increasingly filled out with varieties in which the numbers and entries of acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers and animal trainers offered an eclectic repertoire of physical, animal, classical and comedic prowess alongside horse riders. At the same time, spectacular performances gained all their force inside the hippodromes.

Equestrian vaulting and the haute école remained and remains the basis for some circuses, especially the Cirque Molier (1880-1893), in the late 19th century, and, even today, the Cirque Alexis Gruss. As many contemporary circuses stopped performing with animals in the 1980s, horses have disappeared from many circuses. In contrast, other establishments, following Astley and Franconi, have committed themselves exclusively to theatrical equestrian shows or shows with a narrative dimension. The creation of the Zingaro equestrian theatre (1985) and the Centaur Theatre (1989) located in Aubervilliers and Marseille, respectively, as well as that of the equestrian companies Pagnozoo and Ô Cirque, created at the same time, acted as a model for newer companies such as Le Cheval Rouge, Plume de Cheval and Jehol.

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INA Website (equestrian Art)