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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Tibetan Monks Singing in Moscow's Estate Museum

The 5th International Chekhov Theater Festival: Tibetan monks act in a new performance of the Zingaro horse theater
Zingaro is a unique horse theater that appeared in France and now is giving performances on a tour all over the world. In the framework of the 5th International Chekhov Theater Festival held in Moscow's Kolomenskoye Estate Museum, the theater gave its new performance, a ceremonial play, Wind Horses. The theater was founded by Bartabas and named after his favorite horse. This is a theater where no words are pronounced, but ideas, concepts and images dominate.

Bartabas' show Triptych - with trained horses that, unlike circus horses can dance, not only gallop - was performed in Russia for the first time in the Theater Olympiad in 2001. This time, a new performance of Bartabas' theater is drawing the attention of the audience, because of the Tibetan monks who agreed to sing in their astonishingly low "buffalo voice" and to play special musical instruments. The director had to go to a monastery situated somewhere on the China-India border to ask monks to come sing. It took Bartabas a great deal of effort to persuade the hermits to travel about the world with the theater.

Bartabas says that the senior monk showed him his cow and a solar collector. "On the very first day of the meeting we didn't touch upon theology or theater," he said, "but the monk gave his consent the very next day. I have been working with horses all my life; it is a very important question for me whether animals have souls or not. Horses taught me to listen to instincts. Buddhism propagates the equality of rights of nature, the animal world and human beings. The way Tibetan monks live is very interesting to me. It may seem strange, but the older Tibetan monks get, the more they look like children; the more they study, the simpler they become. The oldest monk acting in the performance is over 70. The last time he visited his homeland was more than 50 years ago and he will never go there again. Tibet is deeply rooted in his imagination and mentality. Tibet and Buddhism are the main ideas of the performance."

The Wind Horses performance is based upon symbols and signs belonging to Buddhist culture. This fills the performance with an unfamiliar mysticism to which the audience hearkens if they are not too tired to meditate along with Bartabas and his actors. As soon as people get into an eccentric marquee with pipes sticking out on all sides, they immediately get plunged into an atmosphere of oriental fragrances. The arena is hidden under a tent, which turns slowly, revealing odd oriental designs. It is dark under the tent, but when light penetrates into it, the audience can see either a man dancing a ritual dance or Bartabas himself riding a wonderful horse right. People of whatever faith recognize the formidable masks (the keepers of the gates to the Realm of the Dead), framed with skulls and with protruding eyes, mouths open and protruding fangs. Performers wearing the masks prance about marvelously on horseback, but others in national costumes ceremoniously sit on horses slowly moving to the rhythm of a prayer that tranquil monks read in a sing-song voice.

The well-groomed horses are not the only actors that the audience admires. A shaggy donkey ridden by a blue rider, one of the Goddesses, is fascinating. Adults and children are delighted by geese running after a horse that minces around the arena.

A rider feeds the geese, which is why they run after the horse. Probably, Bartabas wanted to show that, like the geese are led by the rider, man is also led by religion, belief and philosophic knowledge.

The main idea of the performance is that we should give up haste, but indulge in a universal peace in which each of us can plunge into his thoughts and get rid of the everyday routine.

Natalia Boiko
Special to PRAVDA.Ru