Not only the horses will be dancing at the Horse & Symphony concert
Its stories are what make the CHIO Aachen so memorable. When Natalie Jungschlaeger, owner of the Aachen-based Ferberberg Ballet School, thinks about the World Equestrian Festival one anecdote after the other springs to mind. More precisely: The popular evening event, the “Horse and Symphony” concert. Since 2007, she has been taking part in the colourful pageant with “her girls” - as she lovingly calls the dancers of her ballet school. Ever since then they have practised for countless hours, designed imaginative costumes, rehearsed smart choreographies, improvised and some of the dancers have even overcome their fear of horses.
Once again this year, together with the Aachen Symphony Orchestra, numerous horses and other spectacular acts, the Ferberberg Ballet School will be inviting guests to the dance in the Deutsche Bank Stadium on June 23rd and 24th. “The atmosphere at the Horse and Symphony concert is simply indescribable,” raved Natalie Jungschlaeger. “The combination between live music, dancers, horses and riders is unique. One simply has to have experienced it.”
Sand instead of parquet flooring
Even if the dance group of the Ferberberg Ballet School are “old hands” at the game – preparation is the be all and end all. The rehearsals in the Deutsche Bank Stadium begin around two months before the event. And Natalie Jungschlaeger starts thinking about the selection of music, costumes, choreography and props long before that. The planning is however slightly different to “normal” performances. There are several challenges. Among others, the sand that covers the surface of the dressage arena. Ideal for horses, but extremely unusual for ballet dancers. “Normally we dance on solid floors,” grinned Natalie Jungschlaeger. “In the dressage stadium we have to adapt our programme among others to suit the soft ground. For example turns are taboo, otherwise the dancers would get stuck in the sand.“ But this doesn’t affect the quality of the performance. On the contrary: The ballet elements are indeed limited, but instead the emphasis is placed on a beautiful show.
Unusual dance partners
Measuring 20 x 60 metres, the size of the dressage arena is also much bigger than a conventional stage. Yes, and then there are the horses, of course… “This constellation really does take some getting used to, especially when the horses get very close to you,” the dancer Miriam Reinders said with a laugh. “But when you are stood in the arena, so much is going on around you that you don’t tend to focus on that any longer. Then we simply form a community together with the riders. One dances together with the horses not against them.“ The togetherness is also promoted by the good cooperation with the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein, organisers of the CHIO Aachen, and with the dressage trainer Britta Rasche-Merkt and her riders, who have also been part of the “Horse and Symphony” for many years. “In the meantime, we understand the equestrian jargon perfectly,” laughed Natalie Jungschlaeger.
Many goosebump moments
Some of the dancers of the Ferberberg Ballet School have been on board full of enthusiasm for years. And each of them has at least one personal Horse & Symphony moment: For Lea Matthies it is the Can Can as part of the show performance with the world-famous Grandes Ecuries de Chantilly. Miriam Reinders and Gretha Wagner love looking back on the performance when they played the white and black swans to the melody of Swan Lake. And Luisa Philipp gets goosebumps every time she remembers the mood in the stadium: “Just before you run into the stadium from the ‘tunnel’ and the live music begins, you can see the orchestra and there are so many people sat everywhere. You are stood in the spotlight. A combination between dance, horses and music is created. That is magical! One doesn’t get that feeling on any other stage or during any other performance. After all that are no less than 5,000 spectators sitting on the stands.” Judith Oellers, who is dancing in the concert for the first time this year, is looking forward to precisely that atmosphere. And what does Natalie Jungschlaeger do during the performance? “I stand watching and keep hold of the rucksack with all the valuables,” she said with a laugh.
Ballet meets Queen
This year, with Great Britain as the partner country of the CHIO Aachen, the show is going to be very British. 14 dancers aged between 13 and 28 will perform a choreography to music by Queen. They will be accompanied by eight horses. “We have designed our costumes to match the national colours of Great Britain. And we will be wearing typically British accessories on our heads – each with a different motif: A double-decker bus, the Underground, Paddington Bear, Harry Potter,” revealed Natalie Jungschlaeger. “The spectators can definitely look forward to an imaginative and thrilling programme, which is dominated by Great Britain in terms of the music, the themes and the costumes.”
One thing certainly won’t be missing backstage for the dancers of the Ferberberg Ballet School again this year – a very special ritual. “Before the performances we always all meet up in the ballet hall. Everywhere is full of make-up, costumes hanging all over the place. One can sense the excitement already,” explained Natalie Jungschlaeger. “And whilst my girls are getting ready, I order pizza. That is a lovely moment. Then, we drive to the stadium together and get ready for our performance. And I am convinced: The Horse and Symphony is going to be a fantastic event again this year – this time typically British!”
Tickets for Horse & Symphony 2023 are available here or from the hotline on +49-241-9171111.
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