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A Postcard from The Equus Projects

A Postcard from The Equus Projects
Brittany Beyer

By Brittany Beyer
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Published on June 6, 2012

Discovering Dance OnSite in NYC

From Dancing with Horses to Moving with The Vendors of New York City's Union Square Farmer's Market — The Equus Projects Shares the Delight of Changing Partners in a Postcard

Dear Dance Enthusiasts,

The Equus Projects is a dance company that partners dancers with horses, merging the artistry of dance and horsemanship to create site-specific performances. 

A Brief History:

In 1997, choreographer JoAnna Mendl Shaw engineered a unique collaboration between the Mount Holyoke College Dance Department and the Equestrian Program, which resulted in a trilogy of site-specific performance works for dancers and horses. During the three-month process of creating this body of work, Shaw became fascinated by the visceral connection that developed between the dancers and horses. Following completion of the Mount Holyoke project, Shaw initiated a series of research and performance projects to further explore the language of communication between human and equestrian collaborators.




The Equus Projects:Photo Courtesy of The Company

The Equus Projects has transformed equestrian arenas into theatre spaces and produced four evening-length works for dancers and horses. The company has also created site-specific movement installations for hillside, lawns and gardens. Their repertory of smaller performance works have been performed at Equine Affaire, the Parelli Tour Stop, and for dance festivals such as the NYC's River to River Festival, The American College Dance Festival in New London, CT and The Bates Dance Festival. The company has taught clinics for equestrians and workshops, sharing their equine techniques with dancers. Their touring has taken them to arts and equestrian venues Washington, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.


OnSite NYC

Most recently, the company created a program called OnSite NYC. This program gives the The Equus group the ability to interact with their New York City audiences in a way they cannot when they work with horses.  "Most of Equus Project performances have to take place the country because of the need for large spaces.Transporting horses into an urban area is a stressful experience for our human artists as well as our animal partners," says Equus Projects' dancer, Brittany Beyer.  "This creates a big problem for us as we try to share our work here."

The Equus Projects; Photo Courtesy of The Company

To solve this problem OnSiteNYC expands the company's collaborative partnerships ( beyond horses) to include visual artists and most unusually New York City's Union Square Farmer’s Market vendors. 

The first iteration of OnSite NYC, will feature art dance collaboration with The Union Square Farmer's Market. The company  worked with two vendors : Ronnybrook Farm and Martin’s Pretzels. The collaboration starts with The Equus Projects creating choreographic scores- loosely structured plans of action-  specific for each place and partner. Then the dancers interact with their new partners on site. Every performance will be slightly different version of the same plan. You never know what you will see, and this makes the work exciting for all involved.

What is a Choreographic Score? 

Choreographic scores are plans of action -  in this case a plan of action created by Mendl Shaw. Unlike very traditional dance work,  the dancers here are not

In the Studio,The Equus Projects works on score  with Ronnybrook Farms Milk Bottles
; Photo Courtesy of Yhe Company

performing steps created for them by a choreographer, rather they are reacting and making decisions based on the basic plan (score) they are given. In addition to the plan they follow, the performers make choices about what to do based on what is happening at any moment in the space around them and/or with the artists around them. The beauty of this kind of dance work lies in spontaneous interpretations and reactions. 

To achieve spontaneity with artistry is not easy. The company works countless hours in their NYC studio to hone  skills that develop sensitivity and ability to make clear artistic choices. When it all  comes together and everyone is making choices that are "right" and "true" to the intent of the piece, we witness dance performance that not only honors the individual, but also connects us to the greater power of the place and time we are dancing in. This type of theater experience makes for compelling relationships between the dancers and the audience.

In the Studio,The Equus Projects works on score with Martin's Pretzels pretzel boxes;
Photo Courtesy of The Company

We’ll see what happens in the open space of Union Square as The Equus Projects makes a mandala with milk-bottles from Ronnybrook Farm or performs their box-piece created with pretzel boxes donated by Martin's Pretzels.

Union Square will be the first installation of OnSite NYC, a long term project in New York City. Look for The Equus Projects in many different locations around the five boroughs in the next coming year. Each OnSite NYC score will be completely different!

How can YOU be part of The Equus Projects  Experience This Summer, You Ask?

The Equus Projects will be performing our OnSite NYC installation on the North side of Union Square
Tuesday, June 5th and Thursday, June 7th at both 11:30am and 1:00pm.

If you want to experience some of the work yourself, The Equus Projects will be having a summer intensive June 18th-23rd. There is a great one day option on Monday, June 18th which will be an introduction to many of the concepts which are utilized in the work-- with horses and with visual artists as well. You can contact the company for more information!

The Equus Projects ;Photo by Nancy Halsey


The company has also been invited to be part of LMCC and The Drawing Center’s Big Draw! part of this summer’s River to River Festival.




The Equus Projects Drawing Collaborator ;Photo Courtesy of The Company

July 1st at 2pm The Equus Projects will performing a choreographic score on Governor’s Island  with 11 dancers and 3 visual artists entitled Red, Yellow, Blue.

For More Information about how to be involved click  The Equus Projects

Looking forward to seeing you all real soon.

Best, The Equus Projects






The Equus Projects ;Photo Courtesy of The Company




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