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Episode 207: Taylor Culbert Pt 2: A 17th Century View of Animals

This is part two of an afternoon’s conversation with Taylor Culbert. Taylor is a PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is writing her dissertation on 17th century animal performances in Europe, looking specifically at how cultural narratives about animals shaped the ways that humans and animals responded to one another.

In Part 1 we began with stag hunts and some surprising revelations about animal intelligence. It was a conversation with many interesting twists and turns. Taylor described the challenge of finding accounts from the 17th century about the relationship performers developed with the animals they worked with. I invited Dominique to share what she had observed in the artists and trainers who performed in the Cavalia shows. It’s been a few years since that show was on tour, so Dominique began by describing the show. Cavalia is like Cirque du Soleil only with horses. In traditional circuses, horses are worked in the round always within reach of a long whip. In Cavalia they wanted to break away from this traditional image of superiority of humans over animals to portray a relationship built around friendship.

Part 2 begins with Dominique sharing some stories from the show describing the relationship that developed between the artists and their equine performing partners. From there we circled back into the 17th century to Taylor’s research and that brought us back around to the importance of positive reinforcement training and the role it plays in creating safety nets under horses.


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