Hippo-Lab #2 création

  • Charlène Dray - Cie Horsystèmes


    Experimental Circus / Performance / Creative Research

  • 45mn
    Ages 3 and up
Hippo-Lab © Charlène Dray
Hippo-Lab © Charlène Dray



Horse-dancer, horse-actor, and, of course, horse-entity: here, everything is about the horse.

Accompanied by two composers-performers, Charlène Dray and her two horses interact with sound machines. By juxtaposing traditional instruments with new technologies, they have invented a type of common game, a shared performance and sonic landscape. Hippo-Lab #2 is the second laboratory in a long-running experiment that explores the crossroads of cognitive ethology, technology, science, and animals. What are horses interested in? Is a horse capable of improvisation? And what if they were trained differently? … Charlène Dray interrogates the notion of circus training and experimental laboratory by considering horses as respected, full-blown artistic partners.  

Together, the pulsing of the hearts and the sonic vibrations created a unique composition. The system’s interactivity allows for an intuitive, sonic exploration of each entity’s mode of expression: the system works as mediator between animal, person, and machine. Musicality thus becomes a form of language…


With Charlène Dray, Listan and Luzio, Wïloow.
Creation Charlène Dray.
Theatre Joy Dray.
Sound design, programming Joseph Larralde.
Sound Damien Sorrentino.
Staging Celeste Solsona.
Horses Listan and Luzio.
Dog Wïloow.


“A research squire, a horse artist... An imposing, complex machine sits between the audience and Listan in the ring, and there, sitting at the commands is the squire. With his movements, its heartbeat, and its moods, Listan makes the lights dance and the music sway. Charlène Dray plays with the images projected onto her body; the audience is captivated by the slightest movements of the horse in this astonishing ballet." Courrier Picard, Claudine Marillot, 7 April 2017

“At the crossroads of science, research, and circus.” Télérama, Rosita Boisseau, in reference to the circus innovation awards, 4 June 2015.

"In Hippo-néguentropie, Listan the horse serves as his own equipment. He is both the screen for video projections and the protagonist/actor in different scenes and numbers, he is at the same time both the subject and the object of this experiment imagined and executed by Charlène Dray. Through all the various protocols that he passes, that he endures, he establishes himself as a living object that is key to the agency of the performance in which he creates the conditions and the circumstances. Charlène and Listan have summoned us to witness a type of vertiginous mise en abîme, a disconcerting confrontation between 'object' and 'animal'." 
Marc Moreigne, Processus cirque. Art(s) et science(s) à l’épreuve de la piste, HorsLesMurs, 2015


As part of her graduate thesis “Circus: History, Imagination, Practices" (Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 University), Charlène Dray examines the role of the horse in live performance and invents an form of digital equestrianism. For her horses-partners, she installs digital environments on stage so that they can interact together.

Her research on communication systems is inspired by scientific protocols that adapts to the power of the horse's actions and reactions: an animal that executes orders becomes an animal with agency. For the Hippo-Labs # series, she has gathered talents from different disciplines: the visual arts, sound designers, dancers, programmers. Thanks to her position as an associate artist with the Théâtre de Grasse from 2018 to 2021, she has been able to create a contemporary circus company that mixes scientific research, artistic experimentation and the equestrian arts.

website (in French)

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