"Horses" and "ballet" are not two words that normally go together, but they will next week.
The World-Famous Lipizzaner Stallions Tour will be making a stop at the Savannah Civic Center for performances Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Jan. 20-21, at 7:30 p.m.
"When you see the Lipizzaner perform, it is like stepping back 425 years and viewing one of the greatest equine ballets in history," according to a press release from White Stallion Productions, which heads the tour. "The tour includes many of the traditional movements and exercises as well as entertaining performances presented at the world-renowned Spanish Riding School of Vienna."
Troy Tinker, the show’s Master of Ceremonies, said the tour is based out of Oveido, Fla,, and they began their 39th anniversary on Dec. 26. Currently in North Carolina, the show will travel throughout the Southeast for the next couple months.
The show is the third-longest running coliseum show in the world, behind the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and the Harlem Globetrotters.
"Every single show is special, because the horses know they’re performing and truly are always excited to show off their moves," Tinker said.
Tinker pointed out that you don’t need to know horses, or be a horse lover to appreciate the show:
"I take the audience through a training session with the horses at the beginning of the show, and the audience learns the steps and movements the horses do one step at a time," he explained. "You’ll then recognize and appreciate the moves in the choreographed drills, just like the long-time horse lovers."
Tinker said the main focus is the partnership between horse and rider. This year, there is new choreography as well as a new solo number featuring one-handed riding, which was used in battle to allow the rider to wield a saber.
"We teach the horses to move on cue, and refine and develop their movements from there, into a ‘classical style,’" Tinker said.
A special feature of the show includes the segment "Airs Above the Ground" where the Lipizzaner horses and their riders perform leaps and maneuvers once used during battle, but now considered an "equestrian work of art," he said.
Typically, a horse’s training starts around age four for less than one hour a day, continuing until the Lipizzaner is between six and nine years old, then ready to perform.
General George Patton rode a Lipizzaner in World War II and it is said he "rescued" the Lipizzaner breed from extinction. Children may remember the horses featured in Disney’s "The Miracle of the While Stallions," where Patton saved the horses at the end of the film.
Tinker said the tour has "something for everyone."
"I think every child dreams of owning a horse that can do what Lipizzaners can do and adults appreciate the hard work that goes into the training," he said. "Horse lovers enjoy the artistry while non-horse lovers enjoy the history and also learn about the dressage and classical music in the show."
The show emphasizes the historical background and foundation of the Lipizzaner breed "from its original breeding and use as a horse of war to a horse of nobility and aristocracy to a living form of equestrian art," the release said.
The tour first began in 1970, when producer Gary Lahinsky created the family arena attraction. Many of today’s horses and riders on the tour were hand-picked by Lahinsky. Since its inception, 23 million viewers world-wide have seen the show.
Tickets for the World-Famous Lipizzaner Stallions Tour are on sale at the Savannah Civic Center Box Office, online at www.etix.com, or Charge-By-Phone at 912-651-6556. Tickets for the two-hour show are priced from $22.50-26.50 and include photo opportunities with the horses and riders. Visit www.lipizzaner.com for more information.