Choreography by Bartabas for the Versailles Academy of Equestrian Arts
Text of Jérome Garcin - Extract:
A vast army slept, motionless and impassive, deep in the ground, waiting several centuries to honour the first Emperor of China whose posthumous glory required an imposing military parade, and whose terror of finding himself alone for all eternity called for the company of a close-knit troop of guards.
It is to the uncompromising Qin Shi Huangdi that we owe the Great Wall of China and the reunification of his country. He was buried in 210 BC to the east of the city of Xian in a mausoleum that spread for some 35 miles, but long before that he had his entire army, including the generals, sculpted in terracotta, and ordered that they be arranged around his monumental tomb. This meant thousands of life-size warriors and horses, each one unique, down to their facial features, forming impeccable legions in the clayey bowels of Shaanxi province.
It was not until 1974 when some peasants were digging a well in their fields that this fantastical imperial army captured in clay suddenly saw the light of day once more. Some figures were covered in lacquer but the colours had faded, some equipped with gilded bronze chariots, with swords, armour, helmets, caparisons and harnesses. Along with eight thousand cavalry, foot soldiers, archers, crossbowmen and grooms, there were also the remains of the men who had built the necropolis and had been walled up inside it. Exactly forty years after those horsemen and their silent chargers reclaimed their freedom and stood paralyzed to discover the bustle of the modern world, the majestic doors of the Grand Palais are opened to them by Bartabas (and, by strange coincidence, a previous Bartabas show – Entra’perçu at the Châtelet – was a beautiful calligraphy-like celebration of Immémoriaux by Victor Segalen who, it turns out, visited Emperor Qin’s tomb in 1914).