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APASSIONATA takes stage for one night with horses

If you go

• What:Apassionata: “The Beginning”

• When: 3 and 8 p.m. June 23

• Where: Philips Arena, One Philips Drive, Atlanta

• Cost: $25 to $185

• For more information: Visit www.philipsarena.com or www.apassionata.c...>

ATLANTA -- For one day only, 45 horses with their trainers and riders are galloping into Philips Arena for two performances called APASSIONATA: "The Beginning" to dazzle audiences with their tricks and skills on June 23.

Since its start in 2001, the popular European show has traveled across the pond for a North American tour due to its success with the trick riding, dressage and everything in between.

"As APASSIONATA has grown to performing for over 545,000 people during its annual 30-city tours of the capitals of Europe, we were eager to introduce the show to the United States and Canada," said producer and creator Peter Massine in a recent press release. "Our main aim is to provide entertainment for the whole family. Whether you are young or old, everyone enjoys the two hours they spend with our horses."

Massine has teamed up with American producer Tanya Grubich for the tour and hired Broadway director Scott Faris to make the show compatible for a new audience with lighting effects, timing and music.

"There are differences between how we watch shows than the Europeans see them," Grubich said. "Scott (Faris) understood that right away. The show is specific to the U.S. audience and it's for anybody, not just someone who loves horses."

Some people may try to compare APASSIONATA to Cirque du Soleil's "Cavalia," but Grubich believes these are two different shows that both feature horses.

"They can compare the two, but they won't after they see it," she said. "(Cirque) has been very successful over the years because of the acrobatics and acts, but our's is different. It's the same in a sense because it's artistic and beautiful, but you'll see a very different connection with the horse and the rider."

The performance's feedback has been so great that the team has expended its stay at its first stop, Louisville, for an extra weekend.

"The response has been amazing, especially from the equestrian world," Grubich said. "U.S. is the largest market for horses in the world. Equestrians have been so excited about the show because many of them have ridden horses since they were young or are young right now. They love to see the horses (in action)."

For those who are worried about the horses' well-being, don't fret. The animals are taken care of from nose to tail. Before the U.S. tour could event be discussed, members of the European team drove around the nation to figure out what routes would work.

The next biggest challenge was bringing the horses to the states, so Grubich and her team needed to work out the logistics of getting them overseas safely. The solution was to ship them over on three Beoing 747s to Ohio.

"The horses were in stalls, just like they're used to, so the flight didn't bother them -- they're standing in stalls for all they know," she said. "The people who flew over with them had a key to the horses to check on them during the flight."

When they landed, all of the horses had to be quarantined before being released to the road.

That was only half the battle. In Europe, the cities are close together, so the animals were moved around by boat. In North America, there is a lot more land to cover and they didn't want to drive the 1,000-pound creatures from town to town. Instead, the team toured multiple horse farms around the country to find the right spots for their horses.

"We eventually selected eight hubs (horse farms) that are close to the cities we're touring to," Gribuch said. "The horses live at each farm for six to eight weeks, depending on how many venues they're at in the area. The rider either lives near the farm or right on it."

The riders groom, train and relax with the animals until show time or when it's time to move to the next hub.

With all of the preparation and work that has gone into APASSIONATA's first U.S. tour, Grubich thinks that the audiences will be pleased with the show.

"I think we want the audience to see is something they've not seen before while experiencing the connection between the horses and riders," Grubich said. "That trust wouldn't happen without the connection between them. The horses trust their trainers so much and you can see the difference than when you see others ride a horse. I think people will get that."