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History of the Dressage Musical Freestyle
While dressage has its roots in ancient Greece, it was in the seemingly magical manifestations of horsemanship in Italy and France from the 16th to 19th centuries that haute école, or high school dressage and riding, developed. . Northern Italy was the center of equestrian arts in Renaissance Europe at the end of the 16th century and it was here that what was to become musical freestyle in competitive dressage was born. Not in the school of Pignatelli in Naples, which is one of the most famous, but in the schools of Fiaschi and Fredirico Grisone, music became intimately linked to dressage. The two men wrote the first treatises on dressage and included the use of music. If Pignatelli is known for being the first to train horses in pillars, bringing a new aesthetic to the training of a horse, it was the musical shows that lasted and established themselves in international competition.
In Italy in the 1500s, music was introduced into the equestrian arts first to teach rhythm and tempo to riders, and soon after to accompany lavish horse ballets. Grisone encouraged the use of voice to aid the horse’s tempo. He wrote a treatise in 1550 which was soon translated into French and German. Fiaschi included in his 1556 treatise short musical tunes corresponding to the gaits and movements of a horse. Thus, the first musical vocabulary of dressage is put on paper. Fiaschi encouraged his riders to learn music well enough to sing while riding and to ride as if playing rare and excellent music.
As early as 1548, in Lyons, France, costumed knights wowed the public with their horses leaping, spinning and leaping to the sound of little bells attached to the horses: “Ringing so pleasantly that the harmony of their sweet sound does not tickle the spirits of amazed the people just as much as the brilliance of the sparkling gems dazzled their eyes so that those who looked on did not know whether they were dreaming or living.” In 1602, La Broue wrote that without musical sensitivity, one could never have the sensitivity to the rhythm and tempo of the horse necessary to ride well.
In a spectacular feat, Pluvinel, who reintroduced gentle horse-training techniques from the xenophon, created an equestrian ballet in 1612 to honor Louis XIII’s betrothal to Anne of Austria. The ballet was only a few minutes into a long day and evening of a lavish parade, jousting and carousel. Pluvinel stole the show as the horses of the spectacularly costumed riders jumped and danced and circled and jumped, captivating the audience.
While dressage shares a long history with music, musical performances were absent from the competitive arena until fairly recently. From the early 1900s, competitive dressage drew more from its military roots than from entertainment roots. In the 1980s, horses seemed to be dancing in the arena again when organizers introduced musical freestyle into international competitive dressage, aiming to bring spectators to what was often seen as a fairly boring event. The 1996 Atlanta Games were the first Olympics to add freestyle to the format and today the musical freestyles draw large crowds to see the horses dance.
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#History #Dressage #Musical #Freestyle