Monday, March 23, 2009

Dancing on a Horse: quick chat with Artania's Mairbek Kantimerov

Photo courtesy of Artania

Artania blends the legendary Kantemirov Family Cossack warriors, 12 rare Russian horses, and slew of dancing aerial and acrobatic artists all inside one intimate climate-controlled tent. Artania's current director, Mairbek Kantimerov, fills us in on a life on a horse.

Dance Source Houston: How old were you when you first tried a stunt on a horse?

Mairbek Kantimerov: I started riding when I was a small boy. I don't remember the exact moment. I was around 14 years old when I tried my first stunt.

DSH: Did you learn from your father and brothers? Did you have get other training as well?

MK: I trained with my father, Alibek Kantimerov. He was one of the world's best riders and a 5 time champion of the U.S.S.R. and Armed Forces. He originated many of the equestrian stunts that you see today. I have had several teachers in riding dressage. One of them was Olympic champion Ivan Calita.

DSH: How do the horses like Houston so far? Is it hard for horses to travel so far from home?

MK: They have a good stable area here, and they enjoy the weather and the food so far. Traveling is no problem for them because they are used to it.

DSH: There is one incredible moment in the show when one of the riders jumps from the ground to the top of a horse. It's pretty amazing to watch. How much training is required to get to that skill level?

MK: To be honest, some people cannot learn this trick their entire life. Talented people in the art of trick riding normally learn this in 2-3 years. They have to learn how to stand on the horse in any position on a galloping horse. Then slowly they learn to jump onto the horse.

DSH: Are there still horse stunts in the Russian cinema?

MK: Yes. My grandfather and my family were the creators of acrobatic horse riding stunts for the Russian cinema. Our dynasty took part in about 60 Russian cinemas and never once was a horse injured while performing a stunt.

DSH: The show is full of dance. Who choreographed the show and what kind of dance training do the performers have?

MK: In some parts we took some traditions of folklore and developed it into modern arts. Most dances are especially choreographed for this show. Two of the most progressive Russian modern dance choreographers helped us.

DSH: How do the performers keep in tip-top shape? Is there a group warm-up?

MK: Our actors came from sports or dance backgrounds. Usually they work out individually.

DSH: Are there former competitive gymnasts in the show?

MK: Most of our gymnasts are from the National teams from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarussia. For example, our acrobatic group Atlantis were European champions.

DSH: You are still performing in the show. What do you still love about being right in the center of things?

MK: I only perform for the initial shows in any city just to control the situation and to be sure that I know the riders and horses will be safe.

DSH: Do you think you will have time to go to the Rodeo while you are here in Houston?

MK: I think it will be great. I hope to visit it while we are here.

Sam Houston Race Park and Live Nation present Artania through April 12 at Sam Houston Race Park. or

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.