Equestrian Gymnastics

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The term equestrian gymnastics actually refers to a form of sport and/or entertainment, and is also used as the name of a company or an act.

The name for a specific kind of activity

Broadly speaking, the term Equestrian Gymnastics can refer to a specialized sport, more commonly referred today as Equestrian Vaulting[1]; or it can refer to a specific performance form, most often referred to as the Equestrian Circus.

(For this usage, see Equestrian Circus and Hippodrama.)

A number of such presentations were given in Cape Town, especially in the mid-nineteenth century, when they were poipular in Europa, the USA and England. See for example the Italian Circus of messrs Signor Dalle Case and Signor Severo, and the visiting circus company specifically referred to as the Equestrian Gymnastics (see below).

The name of a circus troupe/company

In the South African context, Equestrian Gymnastics, first occurs, both as a descriptor for a set of performances and as the name of a French circus troupe which visited Cape Town in late 1850 (October-December) under the auspices of the governor Sir Harry Smith, and featured Hippodramas as part of its repertoire (i.e. shows which featured pantomime-performances and dramatised equestrian displays . In advertisements the presentations were referred to as "Equestrian Gymnastics". Hauptfleisch (1997, p. 28)[2] has pointed out that that some of these performances are clearly related to equestrian style models familiar at the time in England and the United States (e.g. the "military re-enactment" or the "Wild West Show").

Among the acts included in their performances were Admiral Lord Nelson, or The Life of a Sailor, The Ballad of the Villagers, The Jolly Miller, The Golden Dream, Fra Diovolo, or The Banditti of the Abrouzes, The Shipwrecked Sailor, Par a Par, a Gar a Nous, or Harlequin Protected by the Magician, The Miser, or Happiness found in Gold and The Kafir War, or The Burnt Farm.

[TH, JH]




F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [3]: pp. 439-440.

Temple Hauptfleisch. 1997. Theatre and Society in South Africa: Reflections in a Fractured Mirror. Pretoria: Van Schaik[4]: pp. 27-28.

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