Live horses will appear on the London stage next month for the first time in 39 years.

A team of three quarter horses and a Lusitano, from the Paris-based Zingaro Equestrian Theatre, will star at Sadler’s Wells in The Centaur and the Animal.

The production merges dressage and butoh, an avant-garde dance form, which originated in Japan and involves precise, minutely controlled movements.

“The show explores man’s relationship with the horse and the highest levels of training — dressage,” said a spokesman for the theatre.

As the performance progresses, man merges with the horse to become a centaur.

A licence has been obtained for the performance from the City of London animal welfare unit and the horses will be housed in temporary stables at a car park near the theatre.

The last time a live horse appeared in a London theatre was in the 1972 revival of Gone with the Wind.

But live horses, were used at the O2 Arena — in Apassionata last month and two years ago in the Ben Hur spectacular.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (24 February, 2011)