Horsing around

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The Independent Culture
Fox-hunting, show-jumping, pony-trekking beasts of the home counties - British horses are about as sexy as the stink of wet tweed. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from Spanish troupe El Caballo de Espana, who teach their steeds to "dance" rather than stamp around. Their brand of refined equestrianism is in evidence at London's Roundhouse this weekend in a show that traces Spanish horsepower from El Cid to the village fiesta via the glorious manoeuvres of the 16th-century war horse. When gold-digging Conquistadors rode these stallions into the New World, they appeared to the Incas and Aztecs as mythical animals: half-horse, half-man - El Caballo de Espana should provoke a similarly worshipful audience reaction, with their rip-roaring blend of costume drama and toothsome hoof. This is less a gallop through history than a mincing trot, a few tricksy side steps and some careful prancing. Expert riders demonstrate their dressage skills in a series of choreographed scenes, but the real stars are eight Andalusian stallions, prize studs of Danielle Lawniczak and Peter Maddison-Greenwell. Since conceiving the idea for the show 11 years ago, the horsey couple have ridden their animals everywhere from Windsor to Blenheim, appearing in films and documentaries along the way. Tonight, Peter will saddle up a Vaquera to perform the flamenco and since horses, however talented, have yet to learn how to hold a fan, he will be accompanied by performers El Moreno and Sabor de Espana.


El Caballo de Espana The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, Camden, London NW1 (0171- 482 7318) from today