APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today

Now in its ninth year, APASSIONATA Europe's most successful live entertainment show, featuring more than 40 horses and seen by more than five million fans in over forty cities, will make its North American debut today, April 27, 2012, at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. The new show entitled "The Beginning" will kick off an eighteen month, sixty-six city arena North American tour.

The show plays Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ (New York) June 1-3. Other tour cities announced include Charlotte, Norfolk, Greenville, Baltimore, Raleigh, Atlanta, Detroit, Toronto, Indianapolis, Washington D.C., St. Paul, and Pittsburgh [see website information for each venue at the end of the release]. See photos of the horses in action below!

For almost a decade this theatrical sensation, with original music scored specifically to work with the horses, has enchanted families and horse lovers alike with the finest horsemanship, including magnificent dressage and exhilarating stunt riding, highlighting the natural elegance, nobility, speed and agility of these animals. Different breeds – including Friesians, Bretons, Welsh-Arab Cross, Lusitanos, Icelandic Ponies, Arabians, Shetland Ponies and Donkeys – have been brought together from Europe and North America to create this evocative, thrilling theatrical event, where everything from the courageous to the compassionate, and complex to the comic is observed.

The show's success in Europe has been so remarkable and consistent that producer-creator Peter Massine and his American producing partner Tanya Grubich were motivated to bring the experience and excitement of APASSIONATA to North America, which boasts the largest equine interest in the world.

Massine said, "As APASSIONATA has grown to performing for over 545,000 people during its annual 30-city tours of the capitals of Europe, we are eager to introduce the show to the United States and Canada. Our main aim is to provide entertainment for the whole family. Whether you are young or old, everyone enjoys the two hours they spend with our horses."

APASSIONATA will be a sponsor of the annual Kentucky Derby Festival as part of the US launch.

Until APASSIONATA, horses had been seen by the public in competitive horse shows, dressage exhibitions, competitive racing, and American rodeos – but in APASSIONATA, Massine entirely re-envisioned how horses could be brought to the stage in a thrilling, dramatic and mesmerizing theatrical presentation.

Starting in 2003, APASSIONATA became an immediate sensation wherever it played. Soon after in 2004, the show began receiving accolades honoring creative and business endeavors including last year's PRG Live Entertainment's "Best Show" award, among the highest honors in live entertainment on the European continent.

When Massine originally created APASSIONATA, he sought out legendary horsemen and women of Europe, many of whom had spent their lives working with these animals or have continued the lineage of families that have worked with horses for generations. These equipes cross over many breeds of horses, and the wide range of how horse and man have interacted with each other.

"Although showmanship is an important component of APASSIONATA," Massine said, "this isn't just a show about what kind of tricks humans can train horses to do, or how fast they can be ridden, or how high can they jump. When I was a boy in Northern Germany, horses were a part of our everyday lives. It was only later when I lived in cities, that I understood how important that connection with horses was to me as a child. If we could re-create the relationship between man and horse on stage, we would have the basis for a magnificent entertainment. And with the success we've had with this show so far, I think the public would agree."

Massine and Grubich are taking great care in bringing APASSIONATA to North America. The full care and feeding and transportation of the equine cast of more than forty is a major logistical undertaking. The European horses need to be carefully introduced to their new North American environment, as well as be conditioned to new horses acquired here for the cast. The show plays arenas on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but from Monday to Thursday the horses are housed and cared for in one of eight fully equipped and staffed centers, strategically located around the continent.

In addition the producers have brought together an award winning, critically acclaimed, Broadway creative team for its North American debut tour. This team is lead by director Scott Faris, working with Holger Ehlers, Author, Artistic and Musical Director of the European tour, to bring all the elements together for the North American production. Faris has staged a dozen productions of the Broadway musical "Chicago," "EFX!" at MGM Grand, "Bette Midler – The Showgirl Must Go On" at Caesar's Palace, George Lucas' "Live Adventure" in Japan, and "Walking With Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular," which played a record-breaking forty month North American arena tour. He was a veteran of the "Siegfried and Roy" team at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.

Joining Faris is five-time Tony winning costume consultant William Ivey Long; the recent production "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway" marked Long's sixty-first Broadway credit. Long has collaborated with director Susan Stromannine times, including "The Producers" (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards), "Young Frankenstein," "The Music Man," "Contact," and "Crazy For You" (Tony, Outer Critics Circle Awards). Other Broadway credits include Grey Gardens (Tony Award), Hairspray (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards), The Boy From Oz, Guys and Dolls (Drama Desk Award), and Nine (Tony, Drama Desk, Maharam Awards). Long designed costumes for the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels Tour and for Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage Hotel.

Lighting designer Ken Billington has designed over 150 Broadway and off-Broadway shows including "Chicago," "Fame," "Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs," "Candide," "Annie," "Sweeney Todd," "Side by Side by Sondheim," and "On the Twentieth Century." His projects also include "Fantasmic!" at Disneyland, "Jubilee!" at Bally's Las Vegas, supervising "Riverdance," and for 26 years, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Ken is the recipient of the Tony, Drama Desk, Los Angeles Drama Critics, and Ace Awards, as well as the Lumen for his architectural lighting.

Choreographer Lorin Latarro choreographed Encore's "Fanny" at City Center, "Live From Lincoln Center"for PBS and Green Day's "American Idiot" (Associate). As a performer, Lorin has been in 14 Broadway shows including lead roles in "Movin' Out," "Guys and Dolls," "A Chorus Line," "Fosse," "Kiss Me, Kate," and "Spamalot." She has danced with Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp and Momix.

The five riding teams and their disciplines include:

Chef d'Equipe Luis Valença

The reputation of this legendary Portuguese riding master and grand master of the Portuguese School of the Art of Riding precedes him worldwide. Luis Valença has devoted his life entirely to the training of Lusitano horses and unusual riding talents. Accomplished in classical riding, he showcases all facets of high school dressage together with his daughters Filipa and Sofia and his thoroughbred stallions. Irrespective of whether they are being led or ridden, Valença's horses have mastered to perfection various riding styles including Iberian Quadrille and Garrocha, which will be reflected in their riders' brilliant skills.

Equipe Sylvie Willms

Sylvie Willms' passion for horses was instilled in her as a child, as the Willms family has been devoted to the training and art of riding of thoroughbred horses for more than 300 years. Sylvie's father, Alex Willms, is known as a horse trainer well beyond the borders of Belgium and France, where he handcrafts exclusive saddles and snaffles from the finest materials for select clients. Her mother, Celine, was a successful rider for the Belgium national team participating in the Grand Prix and impressed Queen Elizabeth with a breathtaking dressage display on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her acceding to the throne. Known across Europe as "the horse whisperer," Sylvie began riding at an early age and has been part of the APASSIONATA family since 2003 where she captivates the audience with her magical liberty dressage and Friesian quadrille. When the Willms family is not touring, they train horses for film productions on their estate in Burgundy, France.

Equipe Laurent Jahan

In a country known for its inimitable emotional and theatrical showcasing of horse extravaganzas, Laurent Jahan is one of France's most talented equestrians, whose acting ability allows the riding arena to be transformed into a massive theatre. Audiences will be enchanted by the charm and sense of humor displayed in both his donkey comedy and pony fantastique. Jahan patiently spent more than three years training his donkeys, who have become fan favorites in APASSIONATA. Showing his range as an equestrian, Laurent and his massive Breton, a stunning breed of draft horse, will also be performing the ultimate dressage movements that will amaze young and old alike.

Equipe The Gudmar Petursson Show Team, The Knights of Iceland

Gudmar and his team have been wowing audiences across the United States for over 10 years. Originally from Iceland, Gudmar began riding at age 5 and began winning competitions soon afterwards. He earned the highest degree awarded by equine college Holar University in Iceland, is a member of the professional trainers association of Iceland and holds the 2nd highest number of Icelandic Championship titles ever. Gudmar teaches clinics all over the US and Iceland, and when not on tour, splits his time between his training and breeding farm in Iceland and his farm near Louisville, Kentucky where he has over 40 prized Icelandic horses.

Equipe Daredevils

This team of top voltigeurs - 5 French and 3 Ukrainian riders – comes together for special engagements and performances such as the North American tour of APASSIONATA "The Beginning." The riders in this group delight audiences with their breathtaking stunts and thrilling feats. Among their amazing acts is the stunning "Hungarian Post." Together with their horses – Azteca and Lusitano breeds – they present this very difficult horse discipline with one rider standing on the backs of two horses while the horses simultaneously jump over rails.

The Daredevils are trained by Erik Hasta Luego of France. The Hasta Luegos have a long tradition with the European APASSIONATA tour where they continually impress audiences with their beautiful and spectacular show riding. Beloved in equestrian circles, the Hasta Luego family has traveled the world for over thirty years impressing horse lovers and the equine media with their artistic yet breathtaking riding performances. Together with their Lusitano thoroughbred stallions, they have collected coveted titles and awards since the 1970s.

For more information, visit www.apassionata.com/usa

Photos courtesy of Apassionata.

APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today

APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today
Sylvie Willms

APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today
Hungarian Post

APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today
Friesian Quadrill

APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today
Icelandic Drill

APASSIONATA Horse Entertainment Show Kicks Off North American Tour Today

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